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Murder By Design

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Murder by Design

By krisser

 

The odd feeling that something was wrong was just a feeling. Jim Ellison had no way to describe it, let alone explain to his partner and guide in all things weird. The most irritating part was the persistence of said feeling and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t shake it.

He stepped out onto the balcony, hoping the cool air would dissipate the feeling and clear his head. He dialed down the city sounds and dialed up the wafting scents of the neighborhood. Cinnamon buns baking, fresh air after a morning mist and the unique scent of his partner, those were scents he loved. Blair’s scent never failed to fill him with ease. He took another deep breath and went instantly on alert for danger. Danger to his guide! He moved inside as he sense-searched for his guide’s whereabouts. The Sentinel located Blair out front, collecting the mail.

The Sentinel mind filled with worry, the guide was outside, exposed to any and all dangers. The Sentinel was downstairs and outside before he actively made any decision to move.

He dragged Blair inside, closed and locked the door prior to pushing his guide up against the wall. He rested his nose behind Blair’s ear and filled himself with Blair’s essence while sense-checking his guide’s overall condition. Once he knew his guide was well and only then was he able to process the anxious tone of his guide’s query.

“Jim! Jim! Jim, what’s up?”

“Nothing…just checking.” Jim moved Blair back off the wall, but kept him within his embrace.

“Oh, no. That wasn’t a nothing. You weren’t actually zoning, but you were somewhere else, man. And that wall move wasn’t sexual and it wasn’t grounding, so tell me what it was.” Blair locked his gaze with that of his partner’s. His expression let it be known that he wasn’t accepting any obfuscating bullshit.

Jim kept his arms about his guide’s shoulders but let the rest of his body relax. The danger was past. “Don’t know, Chief. No, really,” reading his partner accurately. “I just keep having these feelings of danger and know it involves you.”

“Maybe some kind of foresight?”

“Fuck, I hope not.”

Blair couldn’t help grinning at his partner’s rabid passion in that heartfelt declaration, “Could be useful.”

“Quite frankly, Chief, I have enough on my plate with the whole sense thing. I surely don’t want the added responsibility of knowing the future and not being able to change it.”

“Yeah, too right there. Working in the present is challenging enough.” Blair agreed. He rubbed Jim’s back trying to ease the tension and worry he could feel emanating from his mate. He thought of a sure-fire way to relax his partner. With a smile, he moved his hand from the back to his chest. He rippled his fingers, knowing how Jim loved it but couldn’t zone on the continual movement.

The phone interrupted further plans. Their boss, Superintendent West, apologized for interrupting their day off but requested they sit in on a post mortem.

“That’s it?” Blair asked as he moved away from temptation.

“Couldn’t say more. Didn’t want to lead us with any conclusions.”

“An autopsy doesn’t come close to what I was hoping for this afternoon.” Blair sighed as he headed to their bedroom to change.

The Sentinel could smell his guide’s arousal and knew a keen disappointment himself.

-------------------

“Officers, I do apologize for the interruption of your holiday, but when I spoke with Roger he felt your section was best suited.” The pathologist, John Billings, was sincere in his apology. “I have had many oddities cross my table and my findings here are in league with them.”

“Oddities do seem to fall under our purview, Dr. Billings,” Blair’s tone conveyed they were not put out by the summons.

Jim was already checking the body with his enhanced senses and had to control the impulse to vocalize his findings aloud.

Dr. Billings began his cataloging, “Barbara Thorhill, thirty-two, died by strangulation. There are signs that she put up a fight. She was found with a rope cinched tightly about her neck. It was not the cause of death. The rope was placed after death. She died by manual strangulation from behind. At first glance, it appeared that she had been raped, but with examination, the violation occurred postmortem. The object was a long wooden implement, most likely a broom handle. The passage was not torn, but several splinters were found, enough for a possible match.” The pathologist paused as he turned to face the officers. He rubbed his neck before continuing, “In both the strangulation and violation, there was no anger or passion exhibited. I know it sounds odd, but with 20 years of doing this, one gets a sense of these things.”

Both Ellison and Sandburg nodded their heads in understanding.

“The pressure exerted during the strangulation was even and steady throughout, too even and steady to be done in haste or anger.” The doctor shared his intuitive conclusions.

“Yes, strangulation is usually associated with accidental anger or intense passion.” Blair agreed.

Billings nodded, glad at the quick acceptance. “Exactly, any hint that it was of a personal nature was missing. With the violation, it was too calm as well. The insertion was again, even and steady. Same again with the removal. The penetration only occurred the one time.” The pathologist looked once more at the Americans, “That lack of emotion, gentleman, was what spurred my call.”

“I agree it’s odd, Doctor. Were any drugs involved?” Blair inquired. He could tell Jim was rechecking the body.

“Sent it all to toxicology. Have to wait until tomorrow, possibly the day after.” Billings shrugged.

“Thanks, Doc. We’ll go over the file with West, but I think you have something here. Don’t know what exactly, but something unusual.” Ellison told the coroner.

“That’s your job.” Dr. Billings smiled, “The Coroner will hold an inquest, but, Roger has asked to delay the findings until we can further explain the oddities. Wouldn’t mind knowing when you discover what.”

“I’ll make sure you get a copy of the final report.”

-----------------

Jim waited until the elevator doors closed, “He was right, even pressure on the neck and no tears about the vagina. Can the guy be that dumb?”

“What? Oh, about trying to cover the hand strangulation by placing on a rope after and using a tool to make it look like rape? Yeah, that’s my take as well.” Blair shook his head, “Either he’s that dumb, or he’s hoping to convince us he is.”

“You said he, you also think it’s a male?” Jim wondered if his partner could profile on so little.

“The crime feels that way. You seem sure as well, what do you base it on?”

“Hand size.”

Blair nodded, “Let’s go see what Roger has to say.” He released a wistful sigh, he knew they had lost the rest of their holiday.

Jim paused on the way to the Land Rover, a scent in the air put his hackles up. A danger perceived, a danger to the guide. The Sentinel hurried his guide to the vehicle and he departed in a whirlwind of speed. He missed the driveway, opting to go over the curb in his haste to leave the danger behind.

Jim relaxed as the feeling of danger dissipated. He corrected his road choice by heading for the Yard instead of their home. Several miles later, Blair stated he was hungry and they made a quick stop for a late lunch.

When they arrived at New Scotland Yard, the Superintendent didn’t seem at all surprised to see his elite duo in person instead of being contacted by phone.

“Jim, Blair, thanks for going on duty with such short notice,” Roger West greeted his men sincerely.

Ellison shrugged; he was used to the odd hours of a law enforcement career. He knew his partner had been disappointed, but was professional enough not to gripe. Plus, his natural curiosity was peaked and that alone would replace any lingering irritation.

“What’s your take on the pathologist’s findings.” West asked as he unearthed a folder from the bottom of the pile on his desk.

“We were glad you called,” Blair hesitated, he wanted to know why before they shared their reasons, “But why did you?” He sat down as Jim moved to the window.

“Dr. Billings has been a valued pathologist for over twenty years because of his attention to the minute details. When he rang and said the body had an odd feel, I took him quite seriously. By your faces, I’d say he was correct.” West sat back and waited for the officer’s assessment. He had a faxed copy of Billing’s initial findings and was quite curious how it tallied with what the two in front of him discovered.

Jim started, “Death was by strangulation. Manual strangulation. The rope was placed and cinched after death. She was attacked from behind because of the placement of the hands. She did put up some kind of fight. She was not sexually violated while living. All was done postmortem. What stands out most though, is that the pressure used to kill was even and steady.”

“We think it was a planned obfuscation. Whether he is so stupid that he thinks he can cover up what actually happened to mislead or just wants us to think that is yet to be determined.” Blair added to Jim’s accounting of the visual findings.

Jim faced the men, “The lack of emotion required for such an even-pressured result would make me think hired killer. That’s blown by the rope and postmortem violation. That smacks of an amateur.”

West leaned forward, “Was this personal or the start of something?” Roger dreaded the thought of another serial killer.

“Serial killers usually have a passion, a reason that sends them over the edge, to be able to take that final leap into murder. The lack of said passion is a key. I just don’t know what with this little information.”

“We need more information on Barbara Thornhill,” Jim requested.

West passed over the file. “Read through and do your own research. Let me know if this is in your purview. I don’t like pulling rank with the locals unless it’s warranted.”

“At this moment, there is no way to tell. I hate to even say it, but we’ll have to wait and see.” Even though it was Blair’s expertise, he hated a serial killer.

“We have to approach it as a single murder and look into her life. At what point do we kick it back to the locals?” Jim asked, unsure if he expected them to quit investigating midway through.

“I’d feel better if you stay with it. Billings wouldn’t have called unless it was highly unusual. The two of you have already backed the pathologist’s findings. I’ve held off the inquest, if this is indeed the start of something, then we may have a jump. Plus the press won’t be able to fault us for failing to catch on quickly.”

“Press are never happy, either way,” Jim added.

The Superintendent’s phone rang but before he picked it up he looked at his prized officers, “You’ll have a full two weeks holiday coming. No interruptions.” Roger West smiled at the delighted looks on both men’s faces.

----------------

Jim read the victim’s file over Blair’s shoulder as they rode the elevator down to their floor. The door took its time opening.

“These elevator doors need to be oiled.” Jim could hear the metal rubbing metal.

“Lift, Jim, lift, not elevator. We gotta adopt the lingo.”

A resigned voice copied, “Lift. Are you going to expect an English accent next?”

“No, I like your voice as it is, but the terms are something else. It’s better communication and understanding, plus, it’ll make our assimilation into the Yard easier,” Blair explained.

Jim knew how much an outcast Blair had felt in Cascade. His acceptance here at New Scotland Yard precipitated the move to the United Kingdom and Jim truly didn’t want to jeopardize that by refusing to adopt the language differences. “Okay, Chief, I’ll work on it. Can’t promise perfection overnight.”

Blair smiled that smile that was reserved for solely for Jim Ellison.” You’re already perfect enough for me.”

Jim Ellison couldn’t help the pleased reaction his body felt at his partner’s genuine words.

As they turned the corner to their section, Jim tilted his head to the side, listening. “Susan’s here.”

Blair moved forward and greeted their office manager. Although she was their only staff, she managed the office, their schedules plus any and everything else in between. She was a treasure.

“Susan, you’re suppose to be at home or out playing, anything but work.”

“Dr. Sandburg...”

“Blair, please.”

“Habit. I always refer to both of you by your titles when on the phone.” Susan smiled at both her bosses.

“That still doesn’t explain why you are here instead of having a day off.” Blair persisted.

“This was the only day they could install the big screen and connect it the computers. Otherwise, we’d have to wait three weeks.” She smiled at the stunned look on both the men’s faces. “Plus, we have been so busy of late I can’t stay on top of all the paperwork.”

Elated, Blair walked to the door of their office, “How’d you manage to get the big screen paid for and delivered so fast?”

“George, in payments, owed me a favor for setting up his new accounting program, so…” Susan smiled, pleased that she could still surprise Dr. Sandburg.

“We’ll be able to put it to use right away. We have a new case.” Blair continued into the office.

It wasn’t a typical Yard office. It was a fourth floor storeroom that had been converted. The extra space was more than welcome. Ten computers took up a lot of room. Now, the big screen made it look like a classroom, but the Americans didn’t mind. It was one of the most functional offices in the building. They didn’t have to wait for computer usage and at times, in their cases, time was of the essence.

What was not apparent to any on looker was that all ten computers plus Susan’s and his own could share the same screen and would allow the Special Detectives to compare multiple crime scene photos. Blair was especially pleased since they were the only ones in the building with such a set up. It would help explain significant findings Jim’s senses had actually unearthed.

“Susan, you’re a gem,” Jim squeezed her shoulder, “Just remember, you’re our gem, don’t let anyone steal you away.”

“Many are already quite envious of my position. I just beat them back with a broom.” Susan laughed, then realized that Blair had commented on a new case. “A new case that pulled you off holiday?”

“Yes, West called this morning and sent us out. Not sure if it’s a solitary murder or the start of something, but this way the Superintendent is covered, press-wise.” Jim followed his partner into the office.

They sat shoulder to shoulder as they finished reading the file West gave them.

Blair’s sound was that of a half sigh, “Not much to be said of a life. Thirty-two, white female, single, professor of linguistics at University of London. Jean Cornwall: flatmate of three years, professor of literature - same university. Locals said not much of a social life was discovered, but we don’t know how hard they looked. She is survived by parents in Manchester. Locals also interviewed the parents, she visited at all the proper holidays.”

Jim tapped the folder, thinking. Instead of picking up the phone, Jim walked out to Susan’s desk, “Could you find out if the Thornhill crime scene has been released?” Jim looked at the folder, “The local guys in Bloomsbury had it, should still be intact but,” Jim shrugged knowingly.

“Yes, sir.” Susan picked up the phone and dialed.

Jim hovered between both offices but watched as Blair played with the new setup. He scanned in all the files they had and labeled it: The Rope Case. He had to admit it sure beat retyping the info gathered from other sources. When Susan concluded her call, Jim turned back to her.

“I think their Chief Constable is a little put out being usurped, as he called it, by the showy fellas. Bottom line, it was released. University campus housing. She had a shared flat and the flatmate wanted to return and the locals okayed it. I contacted the Campus Housing Director and he says you can come by tomorrow after ten a.m. He’ll let you inside. The other professor will be teaching classes all day.”

“Well, it’s better than nothing. Thanks, Susan. Call and let the director know we’ll be there at ten.” Jim’s voice conveyed his appreciation.

---------------------

Ten a.m. the following day, Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg arrived at the Housing Director’s door. He let them in and waited as the officers checked out the flat.

“Locks are in place, never touched. Since there is no other entrance, the perp must have come in the front door.” Jim wandered about the room.

Blair stepped beside him and rested his hand on Jim’s back, under his jacket. Jim dialed up his vision and scent as he recataloged the room.

“Hard to know what scents are supposed to be here and the only disturbed area is close to the door, where feet were dragged recently. A few rope hairs that match what the coroner has, but we already know she was murdered here. Nothing else of significance that I can pull from here.”

“Well we have this for reference in case there is another. Maybe this is just a one off. I’m still interested in the tox screen.”

----------------------

Blair wanted to finish downloading the pictures and was anxious to get back to their office. He was still hoping for an afternoon alone with Jim.

As the elevator slowed, Jim barred his partner from exiting the car. Alert for potential danger, the Sentinel opened his senses. “There’s a heated argument. Susan’s upset and Roger is there, but most of the yelling is coming from a women.”

“Well, come on then, let’s go.” Blair hurried ahead and Jim caught up. He slipped into protect mode with ease.

Blair stopped dead when he saw the person at the heart of the turmoil. “Mom?”

A slender, blonde woman whipped around, “Blair Sandburg, why is it that I have to track you down. I was in Cascade and discovered you had moved here. To be a cop is what the nice man said, but I knew he was mistaken.” The whirlwind that was Naomi said as she headed for them and never stopped until she had Blair within her arms.

Jim turned and stared at the stranger that aimed for his guide, but found himself relaxing as the scent was similar to Blair’s. Jim surmised and Blair confirmed that this was indeed his mother.

“Mom! You are ahead of your mail. I wrote about the move and other changes in my life. The biggest is here by my side. Jim Ellison, my partner in all things, but especially, love. This is my heart match, mom.” Blair turned to Jim, “My mom, Naomi Sandburg.”

Jim smiled, prepared to like this relative to his partner. He held out his hand, but was instead, hugged within an inch of his life.

“Jim, welcome to the family.” She released Jim and turned to Blair, gabbing his hands in hers, “Darling, isn’t love fun!” She made it a statement and not a question. “Let me look at you …look at this hair.” She switched from holding his hands to holding Blair's hair. “It's so 60's. You look beautiful. I am not letting you out of my sight for two whole weeks.”

“Ah, mom, that’s great, but we’re working a case, so we can spend most evenings together.” Blair tried to explain. He smiled apologetically at Roger and Susan as he hurried his mother inside the office.

“A case? Your people are already dead, dear, they can wait a bit longer for me to finish my visit.” Naomi proclaimed as if announcing a new holiday.

“Mom, you may have noticed, but you are in a police building. This is where I work, with Jim. We’re partners.”

“Blair, honey, you’re an anthropologist, not a cop.” Mentioning it like it was possible that her son had forgotten.

“Mom, I’m an anthropologist and a cop. They are not exclusive, in fact, they tie in much more closely than most imagine.”

“So….you’re doing a paper on these similarities.” Again, a statement not a question.

Trying to maintain his patience in spite of his mother’s denseness. “No, Naomi, I am an officer, specializing in profiling ritual murder. With Jim, we track down serial killers.”

“Blair, honey, that’s dangerous. Besides, no son of mine will work for the establishment.

“I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. It’s fabulous, Mom, being able to apply all my studies in helping the living. And I have done just that.”

That Naomi was stunned was obvious by the look on her face and her chin nearly hitting the floor. She took a deep breath, “I used to be so proud of you, honey, now, quite frankly, I’m ashamed. My gentle, pacifist son, working with the establishment.” Naomi shook her head, “You know, it's so ironic. I've spent so much time demonstrating against the tyranny of the pigs and now... you are one.” She fixed her son with a piercing gaze, “I mean, the next thing I know you're gonna be parading around here in a blue uniform and jack boots.”

Blair answered with his patient voice, masking the hurt his mother inflicted. “Well, you know what, Mom? If I do, that's my choice.”

Naomi was unrelenting, “Well, make another choice.”

Jim could stand no more, “I am very proud of him.”

Blair turned his hurt eyes to his partner and received such an open look of love that it brightened him from the inside out.

“Like that has much credence,” Naomi snapped and rounded on Jim. “You haul him from his faculty position so you can play cops and robbers half way around the world. He had a distinguished career, not that an establishment type such as yourself could appreciate his academic life.”

“Whoa, Mom, you’re behind I haven’t been in academia for four years and you don’t even know Jim. Don’t judge him. Now, back off. He’s more than my working partner, he’s my life partner, the other half of my soul, Mom.”

“Blair, honey, he’s a cop, a pig. He’s a …”

“Naomi, you will treat Jim with respect or our visit is over.” Blair’s tone was fierce in his defense and his body language conveyed that he would back up his statement.

Jim put his hand on Blair’s shoulder as he spoke quietly to Ms. Sandburg. “Scotland Yard wanted Blair. They took him to make the Yard a better police unit. I’m here at your son’s insistence that he works better as a team. He has the most unique way of looking at problems, but his greatest asset is being able to convey those thoughts and ideas to others.” Somewhat embarrassed by his profuse opinion he found the embarrassment faded rapidly at his partner’s gratified expression.

Susan clutched the folder to her chest, the edges crushed by the fisted grasp. She backed away before she lost control of her temper. ‘How dare that woman act like that and to her own son.’ Susan’s thoughts whirled, ‘That woman just didn’t realize how fine these men were.’ She crossed back to her desk determined not to let Jim and Blair know she had overheard. Susan knew the hardest task of the day would be to treat that woman cordially.

Her startled gasp and rapid heartbeat had not gone unnoticed by the Sentinel.

“I don’t know how long it will take to recoup from a wounding such as this. I’m not even scheduled for India until next month. Obviously, these changes are not for the better.”

Naomi left, her parting shot of, “I must process this,” was said as the elevators opened and the doors closed before either man could react.

Susan was relieved the she didn’t have to pretend civility.

Jim figured that his partner was probably still a little shell shocked by his mother’s reaction. One would have thought the homosexual relationship her son was in would have been the focal point of concern and anger, not his profession. He needed distraction and Jim Ellison knew just how to do it.

“Hey, Chief, we have to wait for the tox screen, so let’s blow this joint and hit the National Museum. It has a new permanent exhibit of da Vinci: The Hidden Leonardo. I’ve heard that a little culture can’t hurt much.” Jim’s smile was engaging and hopeful.

Blair responded to the look as much as the intended carrot. “You’re on.”

“Lunch could be on the itinerary as well.”

“I could eat.”

Susan watched her bosses leave and once again was touched how well they took care of each other.

-------------------

“Tox results are in but West requested that you and Ellison see the body again as I explain the tox findings. A copy of the tox screen will be here by the time you arrive,” Dr. Billings assured the special detective.

“All right. The same hospital as the post mortem?” Sandburg asked.

“Yes,” the pathologist confirmed.

“About an hour.” Blair hung up as he turned toward his partner, “You heard?”

“Yup.” Jim put away the printout that he been double-checking on Thorhill’s usual haunts as he watched Blair shut down his computer. His partner grabbed the digital camera and the laptop and the walked to the elevator.

“We can just go home after the hospital stop. We can do as much research at home as we can at the office. I’ll make dinner tonight.”

Jim collected the vehicle from the car park and picked Blair up front. He elected to use the streets, he hated the traffic in the M25 and the A40 at this time of day. Even with the detour it took less time.

“I gotta tell you, Jim, I’m dying to see what Billings’ got. West must think there’s something there, something he’s hoping only you can pick up.” Blair smiled that special smile that told Jim that he was proud of him. “I bet that Roger is just beginning to realize how lucky he and this department is.”

Jim couldn’t help but answer the smile on his partner’s face. Blair could make him feel so good inside.

That only made his fear that more acute.

Jim was relieved that Blair was relating a long story of a past experience. He needed the calming effect of his guide’s voice and he could retrieve the story later as Blair taught him. The panic had returned and it took all his control to keep driving instead of locating the closest bolthole and hiding the guide, his guide, there.

Jim knew that the danger to his guide was real. It was in every fiber of his being. Why he was focused on it now was unknown; maybe it was because he had time to think. He was just glad the hospital stop was on the way home. His only desire at the moment was to get his guide behind locked doors and not let him out of his sight.

The Sentinel parked the Land Rover and was out and around to the guide’s side before he had his seat belt unlatched. He pulled the guide out and pulled him close, inhaling the scent that was only for him. It calmed him enough to focus on the anxious words from the guide.

“Jim, hey Jim, focus on my voice, follow it out. What is it? What’s wrong?” Blair kept moving his hand in widening circles on his partner’s back.

Jim managed a grunt as he pulled his guide closer.

“Jim, man, it’s like you’re zoned, only you’re not. Talk to me.” Blair’s guide voice was especially strong and the Sentinel felt compelled to try.

Inhaling deep breaths of Blair-scent before forcing his thoughts into words.

“Same as before, I know there is a danger to you. No clue to where or what, but it’s real. Instinct has me wanting to get you into hiding, protect you. Then the feeling fades. That’s it, Professor.” Jim knew he couldn’t touch the deep level the fear penetrated, this was the best he could explain.

“Okay, Jim. I need to look at my old files and books. Maybe I might make some mention of this phenomenon.” Blair hugged Jim hard before releasing him. “Right now, let’s go talk to the Doc.”

They headed down to the morgue.

Dr. Billing greeted the two officers with the body door ajar and the tray with Thornhill pulled out. “Roger said it was procedure to have the body available after reading the tox screen. I knew he meant it was your procedure as the rest of constables that are usually handling the cases have no desire to be here any more than possible.”

Blair smiled as he nodded. “Was she drugged?”

“Yes, two separate types, both with the ability to incapacitate. The first, ingested by drink was Carisoprodol; a muscle relaxant. The second, a derivative of Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate, is extremely fast acting. Happened seconds before she died. I found no needle marks, so currently, means of ingestion is unknown. Since I called, I have checked her throat but nothing there.”

“How fast acting?” Blair asked as Jim visually searched the body. He kept his body in physical contact as he attempted to keep the doctor distracted.

“GHB in the dose found would have incapacitated her in three to five seconds of receiving it. That, plus the Carisoprodol, explains why the fighting back resulted in no real evidence. She didn’t stand any chance.”

Jim interrupted, “Is it possible that she could have breathed it in?”

The doctor nodded as he stepped back to the body. “Yes, if it entered by the nose, the blood vessels would have absorbed it almost instantly.” He picked up his light and examined the nose, then pulled an evidence stick and swabbed the nostrils. “This will confirm it, but a powder reside is there. If any force was used, she died before any bruising could be manifested.”

Blair had out the camera and took pictures of the nose and face for blow up to give credence to what Jim must have seen.

“This adds to your theory that no emotion was displayed, Dr. Billings. There is too much planning to be an emotional reaction. We can only hope it was still personal and a one time deal.”

They took their copy of the tox screen and then took leave of the doctor.

Once back on the road, Jim reverted to a silent mode, as a faint threat seemed to hang in the air. He just wanted his guide home where he could be protected.

The Sentinel prowled the perimeter both outside and in, double-checking safety measures designed to alert sentinel ears. Jim knew he would sleep little, electing to stay on the ready. It was essential, he knew that.

Blair made dinner as Jim examined and reexamined their home. They watched a movie but Blair was convinced that Jim was hardly aware. His plans of a loving night were forgotten as his partner seemed incapable of relaxing.

Blair went to the spare room in search of his sentinel studies. After unearthing the Burton book, he took it to bed to reread.

Jim found him asleep with the light on hours later. More relaxed than earlier, he lay beside his love and slept lightly. The need for vigil remained deep within.

-------------------

Blair woke to scenting. He figured this was another perk for being a sentinel. The guide didn’t mind either. Scenting could be very erotic and Jim usually made it so. Jim would immerse his sense of smell in some of the oddest spots. He claimed that he could make out subtle differences, each one more delightful than the last.

Jim, who hated long explanations on a good day about something easy to describe, found it almost impossible to describe how much he loved to scent his partner. Blair accepted that as a good enough explanation. The final results were even better. Jim’s gentle nosing would soon bring him to full erection. Then, instead of allowing a quick finish, he would prolong it until Blair was incapable of any thoughts. Blair’s whole world was one of feelings and sensations. The climax was almost lost amid the joy of the overall experience. Almost.

Blair would resurface only to find Jim’s nose still buried in his groin. Blair would stretch out his hand to find his partner’s erection and cup it with just the right amount of pressure. A few strokes was all it took and Jim would explode with his own rapture.

Yes, Blair was indeed happy to be woken to scenting.

----------

They left home with enough time to stop at Devon’s for their favorite brew. The drive to work was done in a comfortable silence, a silence that said so much about how good their relationship really was.

In the parking garage, Blair figured he could enhance his partner’s vocabulary. “Okay, Jim, where are we now?”

Blair’s voice held suppressed laughter so Jim wasn’t worried.

“At work,” Jim played along as he pulled into their assigned space.

“Specifically.”

“The garage.”

“Okay … how about this whole thing here,” Blair arm swung around, indicating everything about them.

“The garage.”

Frustrated in an amused way, Blair shook his head, “Car park, man, this is a car park. As all parking lots are here in the UK.”

“But, Chief, the cars are just sitting here.” Jim told his partner, not changing the expression on his face.

“Of course …….” Blair’s eyebrows rose in question.

“Well, Darwin, if it’s a car park, then why aren’t they?”

“Aren’t what?”

“Playing.” A grin broke out on Jim’s face.

“Funny, man, funny.”

“Come on, Professor, see? I’m pushing the button on the LIFT.”

Blair grinned back at his partner, “Good going, Jim.”

As they rode up, Jim’s head tilted and he took a deep breath. “Susan’s got us coffee, our favorite.” He held up his cup indicating that it was the same as they were carrying.

Blair pushed the button for the floor beneath theirs. When the door opened they both dumped their half-finished coffees in the rubbish can, then continued up.

The two partners smiled at each other, knowing it was a small price to pay for Susan’s pleased look at the gracious thanks she received for stopping out of her way.

She pointed to the message pad first thing. “Chief Inspector Venables called. He wants you to ring as soon as possible.”

Blair nodded and she hit the speed dial.

“Morning, Gordon. You could have called on the cell.” Blair greeted West’s right hand man.

“I would and have in an emergency. This is a possible tie-in to Thornhill. A Chief Constable in Birmingham rang after he read the Suspicious Deaths briefing. Seeing that they had a rope involved death Wednesday last."

“Right. How do we get there?” Blair grabbed the pen and paper that Susan extended.

“I have a car waiting downstairs.”

“We’ll be down in ten.” Blair hung up and repeated what Gordon had told him, more for Susan’s sake than Jim’s.

Blair gathered the Thornhill photos and the laptop as Jim got the digital camera and power charger for their cell phones.

“Thanks for the coffee, Susan. Let West know, if he doesn’t already,” Jim said as he headed to the elevator.

Blair paused at her desk, “If Naomi calls, tell her you don’t know where we are. She’d be unable to join us that way.” Blair left her with his look of horror at that thought.

Not only did Gordon Venables have a car waiting, he was the driver as well. Blair climbed in back and let Jim have the front where he could adjust the seat and have more leg room.

“The DC is a mate and riding along with you is the most field work I get these days. I find I miss it.”

On the one hundred ninety-four kilometer, two hour drive north, Gordon pointed out several different points of interest. He indicated Warwick Castle and Sulgrave Manor as they passed through North Hampshire and excitedly talked about Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. It made for a fine ride and as the policemen had so little information about the case, there was no sense rehashing it.

“The Birmingham Police building is a current remodel with all the mod cons. The high speed computer link-ups are essential in today’s law enforcement. Some areas are slower to give over.” Gordon didn’t let on where Birmingham fit.

DC Anson was expecting the Yard men and they were sent straight back. After introductions and the expected odd look at their American accent, Robert Anson passed over the case file.

“Our pathologist had noted the placement of the rope and the obvious hand strangulation. He had concluded that when the rope was unsuccessful the hands were used. I thought it too much of a coincidence.”

Blair opened the file and the three men read.

Jacqueline Norden; white; sixty; widowed, wife of retired Colonel Norden. Rape investigated with military angle; no leads. Open case in the rape files. No living relatives.

Jim then spread the pictures out on the table to take a closer look.

“Was a tox screen conducted?” Blair asked the Birmingham detective.

“No. It was down as rape gone wrong. With no relatives to answer to, it’s just a back burner.” Anson answered honestly. “I saw the possible similarities and called Gordon.

“May we borrow these pictures? Are there any of the crime scene?” Jim asked.

Anson nodded and turned back to his desk. He handed the complete file to the Yard man.

“Thanks, we’ll scan them in and send the file back.” Jim assured the DC.

The ride back was all talk regarding the case.

“No doubt in my mind that both murders were committed by the same hand. The handprint on the neck was from behind and it was the same size. She also has the faintest imprint on the nostril like that of Thornhill. She, too, was violated with a wooden tool. Only penetrated the one time. And, again, one could say there is no hint of emotion.” Jim shared what his eyes could discern.

“So, what is the connection between Barbara Thornhill and Jacqueline Norden? London and Birmingham are a hundred and twenty-one miles apart…hundred ninety-four kilometers. We should check stomach contents, if they are there.” Blair was itching to compare the lives of the two women,

Late afternoon found Blair and Gordon heading up to West’s office, while Jim wanted to get the pictures scanned and then sent for enlargement. If the case ever went to trial, they would have concrete evidence to substantiate their claims.

Upstairs, Blair gave the Superintendent the bad news.

“Jim’s convinced that the same hand did both murders. So, unless it’s a fluke, it’s hard to believe that our killer won’t kill again.”

Roger gave a disappointed sigh, “I so hoped it wasn’t serial murder. The only positive mark is currently we are the only ones that have made the connection. We must take some care, there are several Fleet Street journalists that like to keep tabs on this new department.”

“One thing to keep in mind, Roger,” Gordon felt compelled to add, “If there is another murder and we gave no warning and we knew it was possible, the press will crucify you. If we scare the public and nothing happens, I think it would be better to have egg on the face than to be blamed for an innocent death.”

Roger was already nodding in agreement. “Of course, I just hate to create a panic. Look for a connection between the two victims, if something jumps out at us, we can run that to ground. If no connection makes itself apparent, then we have to feed the press; tomorrow afternoon at the latest. We can’t realistically have the evidence to back the claims before then. We can’t use because our sentinel says so.” Roger smiled and dismissed the men.

Blair left immediately, leaving Gordon with the Superintendent.

“That’s another weekend shot to hell.” Gordon Venables sounded resigned.

Blair agreed entirely with the words. He headed down to the fourth floor.

“Still here, Susan. Well, we need take-out.”

“Takeaway, sir, it’s called takeaway.” Susan smiled as she corrected her boss.

“Chinese takeaway for three would be perfect. We have to get the whole file scanned and copied.” Blair continued into the inner office.

They worked as a team until the food showed up and Blair made sure that they ate a full meal before continuing on. It was well after nine p.m. before they closed the folder on the last piece of paper.

“Unless we get a major break, no one comes in tomorrow. If we find a connection we can call Roger. Actually, we have to call him either way, he’s planning a press conference. I’ve set the detailing program and we just have to wait. Susan, stay home! We need you fresh on Monday.” Blair wanted at least one day down.

“Once the press get wind, they will want comments and interviews and I would rather leave that to West.” Jim wanted to avoid the press as long as possible.

They closed up shop. The echoes of ‘see you Monday’ followed them to the car park.

--------------

Blair checked the computer for any results on his match search. So far nothing, no correlation found between the two women’s lives. He extended the perimeters of the search and set the machine about its task. It was Sunday, and possibly, he and Jim could get a run in and after a lazy dinner have a cozy evening for just the two of them.

A knock at the door mocked his thoughts. He crossed the room muttering about jinxing himself.

Naomi stood at the door, luggage in hand, “Blair, I have processed my feelings about your police work.”

Blair stared at his mother, unable to tell what she decided, he opted to avoid another confrontation. “Come on, Mom. Let's not get into that again, okay?”

“Honey, we've always been such great friends. I don't know why I suddenly turned into supermom.”

“I don't know either.” Blair agreed with his only parent.

“Well, anyway, I swore I'd never do it and I'm gonna let it go. And I will. I'm gonna let it go.” Naomi breezed past her son inside and placed her luggage by the sofa.

Blair was still suspicious, “When?”

Naomi smiled, “When hell freezes over.”

“Mom...”

“I'm joking.” Naomi chuckled, she still had the ability to get one over. “So where do I sleep? I don’t want to miss any more time with my favorite son.”

“Favorite? Do I have siblings that I don’t know about?” Blair wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“No, dear, just a figure of speech.”

Blair showed her to the guest bedroom and helped her put away her stuff as they played catch up on people they both knew. When Blair caught a look at the time, he knew he had to head outside and warn Jim.

Blair waited for Jim to return from the market. He was relieved when the Land Rover pulled into their parking space.

Jim could read that his partner was agitated. “What’s up?”

“My mom is here.” Blair announced baldly.

“She still upset?”

“Claims not to be. She expects to stay with us.”

“Ahh.”

“What am I supposed to say?”

Jim sighed, “Of course she can stay.” Jim tipped his head, “What’s that?”

They finished walking up the stairs. The smell assailed his senses, Blair couldn’t imagine what it was doing to Jim’s.

“Dial it down, Jim. Boy, oh, boy,” Blair rushed inside, “Mom.”

Jim sneezed as he stepped in, even after dialing down. “What is that?”

Blair turned back to his partner, “She's burning sage, man. It's to get rid of the bad vibes.”

“Bad vibes?” hand to nose, holding back another sneeze.

“Yeah, all the bad vibes I’ve created for her.” Blair couldn’t believe his mom and didn’t know where to begin to apologize. “It’s so hard to believe that the parent/son rolls seem the same as when I was a child, go figure. I’m happy with my life and she will either accept it or make herself scarce. She says she already has, I have my doubts that she processed this fast, but my money’s still on her coming to terms with it…..eventually for real. It’s her way. She flits in and out of my life, but hasn’t really taken the time to see me as the adult I am. But, in the end, she loves me and will adjust.”

Jim hoped so. He knew it was an unattainable wish in his relationship with his father. He sneezed again.

“Mom,” Blair raised his voice to get her attention, “Jim’s allergic to the sage.”

Naomi’s eyes opened wide, “Oh, that's awful. How do you stay clean?”

‘’I shower,” Jim thought that was obvious.

“Oh, no, I mean, how do you get rid of the negative energy?”

Jim thought she was a harmless fruitcake and played along with her, “I shower.”

Naomi stared at the new man in her son’s life. “I’ll have to work on it.”

“Great.”

“Jim, I just have to share why I can accept Blair’s new life. Did you know that he used to dress up in a superhero costume?”

Jim smiled, “Really? Which one?”

Naomi’s head bobbed up and down as she laughed, “And he'd make me be the foreign evil spy. You remember that, Blair.” She called out to her son, “How you used to drive to the lair in your supermobile.” She mimicked little Blair’s actions, “He used to sit on the back of the toilet and flush to make it go.”

Blair just wanted to vanish now, his mom could go on for hours with a willing audience and, unfortunately, Jim looked willing. Blair gave up and headed to the kitchen to fix lunch.

------------------

Since his plan for an evening alone with Jim went out the window with the arrival of his mother, Blair decided that they should just take her sightseeing instead.

First stop, St. Paul’s Cathedral, there since 1710. Blair knew his mother loved beautiful ceilings and he figured Jim would love the colors.

Next stop would be Kew Gardens. On the way, Blair took the time to call his computer and review the results of the updated program. Discovering there was sill no connection between the victims he put in a call to their boss.

Kew Gardens was known as one of the more beautiful parks in the London area. The vast expanse of lawn and formal gardens soothed Jim’s ordered mind. The two soaring Victorian conservatories with the exotic plant life was Naomi’s favorite. Then the trio headed for dinner at Club Montepulciano. Good food was the standard and Blair knew the mix of comedy and cabaret will please both his partner and mom.

Next morning, Jim picked up the paper and was surprised at the meager coverage. Upon reading the articles, he realized that there wasn’t a significant amount of information that could have been released. Most of what they had was supposition based on his ability to gleam more in most situations than the average person. Anything learned from that inside knowledge had been withheld. He figured at least the press and public couldn’t say they hadn’t been told.

With nothing more to go on than what they had yesterday, Jim and Blair decided to spend the day with Naomi. They both knew that the case was bound to get busy and they could very well not have any more opportunities to spend much time with her. They would devote the day to her.

Jim could tell that both Blair and Naomi were pleased.

After calling Susan with strict instructions to spend the day away from the office they started the day at Buckingham Palace. They watched the Changing of the Guard, then headed to the Tower of London.

Blair purchased a guide sheet and read off the interesting bits. “The Tower had been an ancient fortress and royal residence in the Middle Ages. Later it became a jail for illustrious prisoners. The Tower is enclosed by a dry moat. Various towers subsequently built were used as prisons; one of them now houses a collection of medieval arms and armor. The crown jewels are displayed in the Waterloo Block, a former barracks. Isn’t that a hoot, do you thinks it’s proper?” Blair didn’t expect an answer and so wasn’t disappointed when he didn’t receive one.

He continued reading eagerly, “The Traitors' Gate and the Bloody Tower are associated with many historically noted persons, including Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, the 2d earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the duke of Monmouth. Many persons beheaded within the Tower precincts, or on the neighboring Tower Hill, were buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. The Yeomen of the Guard known as the Beefeaters, still dress in Tudor garb and still guard the Tower. Jim, that’s those guys on the vodka bottles. Cool.”

Naomi laughed as she told Jim, “Blair always loved this stuff when we traveled and while at school. He excelled in history. Well, actually he excelled in most subjects except math.”

Jim looked cross-eyed at Blair over Naomi’s head, “I’ll remember that when you give me change.”

For lunch, the three elected to go with Brit food and Jim remembered the White Horse Pub for their Shepherd’s pie and ale. Jim let Naomi win at darts and she was so excited that she picked up the tab.

Hyde Park was next on the sightseeing agenda and Naomi acted regal when she learned that it used to be a royal hunting ground. Once, even the venue for duels, executions and horse racing.

Westminster Abbey, the burial place of Britain’s monarchs since the eleventh century was next on their list. They perused the museum. Not the way Blair would have liked but he knew he could return easily. Naomi loved the Covent Garden area best, the Victorian market and elegant buildings nearby converted into designer gift and clothes shops, hip bars and restaurants. They spent the rest of the day and evening there.

------------------------

The phone woke the two men well before the alarm clock.

Blair grumbled into the mouthpiece, “Sandburg.”

“Sorry for the hour,” West’s right hand man announced across the line, “But I do believe we have another murder. Black female in Bristol; rope about her neck. Crime scene is intact. Their Chief Constable wants no foot wrong if it does link to our case. They’ll be expecting you two. I’m already on the way.” Gordon Venables rang off.

Blair left a note for his mother as Jim showered. He gathered all their gear before stepping into the already vacated shower. Jim brewed the coffee as Blair dried his hair. They met at the front door and slipped quietly out into the night.

The one hundred ninety six kilometer drive to Bristol took less than the two hours it would during the day. The lack of cars on the road made the drive faster and more pleasant. Jim felt a certain relief in knowing that London did indeed have moments of rest.

Blair appreciated the full thermos of coffee to help remove the last vestiges of sleep.

The press had the building staked out. ‘Better late than never,’ Jim thought to himself, then added, ‘Yesterday they didn’t care, today they’re all over it.’

Both men ignored them as they flashed their IDs and proceeded inside without a backward look. Venables was with the Constable in charge of the on-site investigation.

“The forensic unit is waiting to go inside. Everything is the way it was found.” Gordon told the Yard men.

“Oh,” the Constable interjected, “Except for the telly. It was blaring, the reason we were called and I did shut it off. It was then that I saw the rope around the woman’s neck. I called our Chief and he said he would alert you Yard boys.” The slender patrolman didn’t have much in the way of muscles, but he did seem to possess strength of character. He knew police procedure as well.

“You found the body …Officer…?” Jim asked.

“Constable. Rollins. Yes, flat neighbor called in an excessive noise complaint after receiving no response to her knocking or ring up.”

“Have your men begun a canvassing?” Jim was hoping to have the place to himself for a bit.

“Yes, sir.”

Blair interpreted Jim’s look and took over the conversation while steering Venables and Rollins to the door. “Do we have much information on the victim?”

Constable Rollins flipped open his notepad and read off the particulars. “Nora Worsley; twenty-nine; single; lives alone; secretary at Putnam Insurance Building. Her ID tag was on the doorknob. Neighbor said she’s usually so very considerate that she thought it odd that she would blare the telly so loud so late.”

“So, we must assume it was turned on to mask a scream or scuffle.” Blair made notes to check if the other places had officers that turned off a TV and thought it worth noting.

“How long shall I tell the lab boys before they can enter?” Venables put them back on track.

“Let me check with Ellison.” Blair turned to locate his partner. “Nice catch, Rollins. This could be a real break.”

Rollins nodded his thanks, “Was an eye opener listening to you speak last year.”

“Thank you,” Blair responded, genuinely pleased.

Gordon smiled, “I’ll contact their Chief Inspector and officially take over the case.”

“Chief won’t be surprised,” Rollins acknowledged.

Inside, Jim prowled about the room. First he visually cataloged it. He would wait for Blair to go microscopic. The only area that seemed disturbed was around the body and the walkway to the front door. He turned to his partner as he entered the kitchen area.

“The perp probably turned on the TV,” Blair said as he stopped next to Jim.

“I heard. No prints. The killer didn’t wander about the house, just this area here between the body and the door. I think I recognize a scent that was on the other rope.” Jim confided the last knowing his guide would immediately help him isolate it.

“Okay, Jim, close you eyes and put the different scents into a matrix of colors. Identify that precise strand and follow it. Where has it been? Where did it go?” Blair kept his hand on Jim’s lower back, moving his thumb back and forth.

Jim thought it odd to see a smell, but this technique always seemed to work. It didn’t fail now.

“From the door to the body to the TV and CD player. Very strong about the body, the rope being the most concentrated area.” Jim murmured aloud as Blair wrote it down.

“Good, now shuffle through you scent memories and pull up the rope that Dr. Billings had.” Blaire guided Jim to his stored memory.

Jim visualized the lab and rope, his mind automatically translating the remembered scents into colors. “Yes, it’s the same. Very distinct, I would recognize it if I smell it again or any rendition of it.” Jim tried to recall the rope from the Norden evidence bag. “Almost positive the same scent is on the rope we saw in Birmingham. Very faint, but there.”

“Wow, Jim, you never cease to amaze me. I wish I could tell the world how fabulous you are, but it’s best we don’t.” Blair smiled with pride but knew too many unsavories would try to hunt down a person with Jim’s abilities and not for the greater good.

“Yeah, don’t want it getting out.” Jim knew he would be considered a freak by most.

Almost as if Blair could read Jim’s mind, “No, Jim, you are not a freak. You’re awesome, but you know any military would want to dissect you so they could reproduce it and build an army.”

“Lock me up and throw the key away.”

Blair recognized the horror buried in Jim’s eyes at that thought. “No matter what, I’d get you out, no matter what.”

Jim recognized the fierce tone and taut body posture. Blair meant it. They were together in this, he really wasn’t alone and would never be left behind again. He nodded his understanding to his partner.

“So, you must work harder at not letting it slip that you are hearing, seeing, smelling, etc, so much more than the average Joe.” Blair added the last as a reminder and a subject changer.

“Yeah, been working on it. Finish getting all the pictures you want?”

Blair shook his head and started snapping. He took several extra photos of the places Jim pointed out.

They gave Venables the okay sign and let in the forensic team. As they headed back to London, Blair put in a call to West.

“West.” The voice sounded awake and alert.

“Sandburg here. I take it Venables has already called.”

“Yes, he alerted me at four a.m. Is it the same guy?”

“Yup, same guy. We got this crime scene fresh and I’m hoping you can get the same pathologist to do the post mortem. It would sure help.”

“I’ll make some calls.”

“Thanks. We’re going into the office, download pictures and compare. You need some tangible evidence.” Blair hung up as Jim turned off for an all night diner.

“I’m hungry.”

Blair smiled, “I could eat.”

--------------------

Blair downloaded the pictures as Jim fired up all the computers.

“I do love this new program and big screen. We can compare side by side with the multiple split screen capability. If you see something I can’t, we can enlarge it until I do and print it. This will sure make it easier for plausible explanations.” Blair’s fingers flew over the keys as he brought up Thornhill’s and Norden’s pictures to compare to Worsley’s.

Jim opened the hard files on the first two victims. He hoped to find some notation regarding the smells. He sighed his disappointment, not a scent was noted. He looked for mention of a blaring TV and again found nothing.

He put in a call to Robert Anson in Birmingham. The DC had him put through immediately.

“See you have another,” Anson said by way of greeting.

“Yes, and press’ll be camped out now. The locals discovered it close to the time of death because of the television. The volume was at the highest setting. Did any of your men note or comment on having to turn off a TV or radio?” Jim asked.

“Nothing in the initial report. No mention of an aside comment as best I can recollect. She had been dead a day before her cleaning lady found her. Humm, now she may have turned off the telly and never made mention to our boys. I’ll have the Constable in charge check and I’ll get back to you,” Anson volunteered.

“Thanks, I’d appreciate that.” Jim was glad there seemed to be no tension between agencies. Probably due to he and Venables being friends.

Next he checked with the Bloomsbury division of the Yard and received less help, but did learn that no one had noted a loud television or radio.

“Jim, all the pictures are loaded and displayed,” Blair called out to him.

“Great, Chief,” Jim finished his notes before moving into the next room. “Susan’s on her way up with coffee.” The Sentinel automatically noted the arrival of a friendly.

“That is good news. Do you think she …?”

Jim answered before Blair could finish his question. “Yes, it’s from Devon’s.” Jim assured his partner and watched his face light up.

They greeted Susan with glee and feigned surprise at the anticipated treat.

Blair filled her in as Jim began work on the pictures.

Once Susan was in the loop, Blair joined Jim and together they picked out frames for enlargement and hard copies.

“Chief, do you see the marks here and here?” He indicated the slight discoloration on the necks of victims one and two.

“Not really, maybe a small bruised area,” Blair shrugged.

“Exactly, but you can make it bigger and clearer.” Jim had great faith in his partner’s computer skills. “Then hopefully, you’ll be able to see the clear imprint and hand size.” Jim didn’t want to be left at theory and conjecture. He wanted hard evidence, believable evidence.

Blair tapped the keys until the place that Jim indicated filled the screen. Then he worked the pixels and the image came into focus.

“Wow, Jim, that is clear and more importantly, the same as on the Thronhill neck.”

“I hope that exuberant exclamation means good news.” Superintendent West asked as he entered the office

“We have visual proof that the hand size is the same on all three victims and that the placement of said hands are from the same angle. It also confirms the killer is a male as we suspected.”

West nodded, “Anything else you can tell me about the killer?”

Blair shifted his thoughts to profiler mode. “Male, over forty,” he paused as he recognized the puzzled look on his boss’ face at his conclusion. “If it were a professional killer, I couldn’t really guess his age, but this is not a professional. He is an amateur. More than likely, this is his first. The lack of passion or control of passion puts him over forty. That takes some practice. But I feel that he is just not emotionally involved with the victims. I believe that he didn’t know them, never did. That’s the reason their deaths are not a personal issue with him.”

“So all these women have been killed for no reason?” Roger asked, equally appalled and disheartened.

“Oh, there is most definitely a reason, just one not apparent in the execution of the actual murder. I’m also convinced that the victims didn’t know each other and that there is no other connection between them. My hunch is that they are totally random.”

“I can’t go to the press with that,” Roger was horrified. “Tell them that we don’t know who the killer is and we have no clue who could be next?”

“No, but that is the reality. Being so, we can’t prepare so causing needless panic would be worse.” Blair hated the position they were in.

“Will Dr. Billings be able to do the autopsy?” Jim asked he viewed the rope pictures.

“Yes, John will receive the body for post mortem sometime late this afternoon or evening. I’ve put a rush on any tox screens or DNA samples connected to this case.” Roger looked down at the printed copies of the neck bruises that clearly showed the handprints. “Nice work.” He left he men to do their work.

“Blair, does the lab still have the rope from Thornhill?”

“Yes, should, not a cleared or a dead case yet.” Blair looked over to his partner.

“I want to reexamine it.”

“DNA?”

“No, latex. There is a minute particle on the Worsley rope and I hope to see some on either of the others. We might get a match if we get lucky.”

“Do you think you missed it?” Blair hoped Jim didn’t doubt himself.

“Was focused on DNA, so maybe.” Jim shrugged.

Relieved, “Okay, I’ll have Susan call down for it.”

--------------

The afternoon was spent at the computers. The Thornhill rope yielded no latex for comparison. They had to wait until tomorrow for the autopsy and two for tox results.

Even though Blair believed there were no links between the victims, he still ran the search programs. It was set to look for any kind of links, however tenuous. He accessed phone records and credit card expenditures.

By the end of the day, they had established that the victims had no commonalities except that they all ate food, drank tea or coffee and went shopping for clothes. No two places the same, no overlapping of their lives, no shared shopping areas. This only cemented the very randomness of it all for Blair.

Blair called his mother to arrange getting together for dinner only to find that she was preparing dinner for them.

They clocked out after a fifteen-hour day.

Dinner was well received. They sat back to watch a movie together. Twenty minutes into the movie, Blair, snuggled next to Jim on the sofa, was fast asleep. Naomi thought to mention how cute that was and found that Jim was asleep as well. She turned off the TV, covered them with a quilt and took a mental snapshot. She was pleased, at least, by the love that Blair had found.

-----------------

They breakfasted with Naomi in leisure. They were to meet with Dr. Billings at ten a.m. and to go straight there from home.

They arranged to meet Naomi at the National Theatre that evening at seven p.m. Then left so they could stop at Devon’s on the way. Jim loved using side streets to avoid traffic on the A-40.

Jim ordered coffee for both as Blair flipped through the newspaper. He folded back the page where West was quoted.

At this stage it would be best to allow our detectives to work the case without making conjectures or wild accusations that could only wrought needless panic. Unlike the television world, we do not get our results immediately.

“Good move on West’s part, now he has the press calling for law enforcement to be allowed to get the latest in technology. At least we have breathing room to work with.” Blair flipped through the rest of the paper.

Jim was glad the press would be off their backs. They could become aggressive in their zeal and hurt could befall his guide. He would keep them away from Blair from this point on, and all other remotely threatening persons as well.

There was a danger, a real danger and he didn’t know from where it would strike. He would be prepared. He knew that usually home was the safest place but the mother was there now and she was emotionally dangerous and he would protect Blair, his guide from that as well, too. He checked his weapon. He wanted it on the ready so he could get it fast…. a quick draw position would be best.

Blair scanned through the police blotter section and didn’t pick up anything useful. He sipped his coffee and noted that Jim wasn’t drinking his. His hands were gripping the steering wheel. When one hand drifted down to his gun, Blair knew that Jim was worrying again.

“Okay, Jim, what’s wrong?” Blair used his guide voice intentionally.

“You’re safe, Blair. I won’t let the danger near you. Your Sentinel can and will protect the guide. It’s probably best if we don’t go in today. I can scout for safer locations.” Jim checked the rearview and the side windows for any hint of danger.

“Jim, I’m fine. I’m with you. We need to go to the hospital. Dr. Billings is waiting. Hospitals are safe. What has you so disturbed?” Blair rubbed his partner’s arm.

Jim silently agreed that a hospital could be a good place to hide. He gunned the engine and used all the short cuts he knew to get then there faster.

“That feeling of danger again, Jim?”

“Yes. I’m not in danger – you are. So we’re glued from the hip from now on.”

“However nice that sounds and I’d like nothing more actually, but it’s just not logical. We can’t realistically be together every minute. What we do need to do is take some time and explore these feelings a little deeper, find the source.”

Jim took a few deep breaths, Blair’s words helped uncoil the knot of tension and he relaxed somewhat. He pulled into the hospital parking lot. He drove down into the section reserved for police vehicles and stuck their special placard on the dash. He gulped a swig of coffee and made a yucky face as he swallowed, “Uhhh, this is cold.”

----------------

They went down to the basement, home of the morgue and found the pathologist making a fresh pot of coffee.

“Coffee? Tea?” he offered.

Both accepted coffee.

Jim stayed close to Blair but the feeling of impending danger had dimmed. The hospital was a wise choice.

“Roger said you requested my knife. I think a thank you is in order,” he smiled, “Knowing what I could expect, I sent a tox screen off first thing. I requested a detailed drug breakdown including concentrations.” He turned to the wall of drawers and pulled out Nora Worsley. “She was killed the same as the other two. Faint discoloration on her nose, would have missed it if I didn’t know to look for it. Manual strangulation the same and the same even pressure. Same hand print. Penetration after death. The rope is the same type, lab confirmed and it’s ready for pick-up. I assumed you’d want it like the last one.”

“Yes, thank you.”

Jim cataloged the body same as before and the only real difference he could perceive was the ease that the neck had been compressed and that wasn’t anything that could be proved.

“I think he’s got the knack of strangulating. It was easier. No emotion, but easier.”

Dr. Billings was surprised, he’d had similar thoughts but felt certain doubt in expressing something so unprovable. “I concur.”

Blair took out his note pad, “Could that make him escalate the killings? Let’s see, four days between victim one and two and six days between victim two and three. Best guess, that is also done at random. I hate worst of all that there will be another death before we can figure it out.”

Jim reached out and squeezed Blair’s shoulder in a gesture of comfort.

Billings sighed, “Again, there is no hair, no DNA. The tox is on rush, but even tomorrow is unlikely.”

Jim took pictures of the bruising that was now more visible.

“Doctor, frankly, we wouldn’t be even this far along if you hadn’t picked up the oddity.” Blair reminded the pathologist.

Jim turned to Billings, “If another happens, may we request you again?”

“Yes, of course.”

--------------------

Blair finished arranging the tickets for will-call as Jim parked the vehicle. He had already put in a call to Venables and West.

Venables was talking with Susan as they arrived. Blair handed off a copy of the autopsy.

“Same guy, no mistakes, no slip-ups. It’s a repeat of the second,” Blair said over his shoulder as he made for the computers. He downloaded the last pictures and replaced the original Worsley pictures with the updated ones.

Susan handed Jim a phone note. DC Anson had called and it was negative response to the TV.

“One difference. The blaring television. This was the only victim found with the TV on.”

“What can we make of it?” Gordon asked.

“The only thing that would do would be to attract attention,” Jim wondered if it could be that easy. “He wanted the body found.”

“The papers,” Blair joined them, “That’s it, Jim. The press had not thought much of Roger’s press conference. It’s like he wasn’t taken seriously, so the blaring TV attracts attention. We can’t ignore him, he’s known now. It’ll fit once we know the initial reason.”

“Today’s piece must be frustrating then, no details, not much for him to gloat at, is there?” Venables commented.

“No. But will that change anything?” Blair shrugged, “I don’t know.”

--------------

They worked with the photos and completed the profile sheets on each of the victims. They added any information gleamed from the local police reports, the results of the neighborhood canvassing. Nothing noteworthy stood out.

“You know the tox will only confirm what we’ve already found out,” Blair reminded his partner.

“Yes, but it’s one more piece of tangible proof in the evidence chain.” Jim wanted this bastard cold.

They changed into evening clothes before leaving and headed out with plenty of time to meet up with Naomi.

Blair was looking forward to the play, two of his favorite actors were in it. Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw were in Two Gentlemen from Venice and Blair was glad that Naomi’s visit gave them the excuse to attend. This wasn’t Jim’s first most favorite thing to do. After the play they suppered at Savoy Grill. That was a favorite from their first visit and the high point for Jim.

The following morning was also spent with Blair’s mom. She wanted to see the Monet exhibit but it was closed for cleaning. So, Blair contacted the curator that happened to be a close friend of Gerard Evrecy, curator at the Louve. He got the private showing. The art world had long memories.

Naomi was more than thrilled to be treated as a VIP and she heard first hand how Dr. Sandburg had saved all the art in France. She couldn’t help but be proud that so many seemed to appreciate her son. Maybe she would have to reprocess his work.

Jim wanted to stop at the bank before lunch. He parked the Land Rover and left the AC running. He opened the door, got out and then stood frozen, head tilted.

“What is it, Jim?” Blair asked sotto voiced. Blair exited the vehicle and closed the door on Naomi, who was looking through the restaurant guide.

“Robbery … three men. Heading for the door. Come on.”

Blair tripped the last man to exit. He hit his head, stunning himself. Blair quickly tied the robber’s hands behind his back with his own belt.

Jim took out one man with a punch to his solar plexus and a follow up punch to his jaw. Blair tied his hands behind his back with his own belt, as well.

Jim tracked the third man as he ran down the street, zigzagging between the parked cars. Jim grabbed Blair and ran back to their vehicle and followed the fleeing robber.

“I recognize him. Dick Ramsey. Wanted in connection with three robberies. Belt up and hold on.” He jumped the curb and honked as he drove on the sidewalk.

Naomi cried out, “Stop, Jim, this is ridiculous.”

Jim, focused on the fleeing man, ignored her.

“Oh, Blair, honey, make Jim stop this car right now, I feel like I am in one of those silly TV shows with all the car chases and such. Starsky and Hutch, wasn’t it?”

“We’re in England, Mom, it’d be The Professionals, Bodie and Doyle. And we can’t stop at the moment, we’re in one of those real life car chases.”

“Blair, honey, we need to talk.”

“Later, Mom,” Blair grabbed for the handle as Jim stopped the car, “Right now, stay in the car.”

The two men followed Ramsey on foot through the food stalls.

Unerringly, Jim kept track of Ramsey and signaled Blair to go one way and he went the other. When Ramsey saw and recognized Blair he drew his gun. Before Blair had time to blink, Jim had come up from behind and subdued Ramsey. The felled man lay at his feet and Jim handed the gun to Blair along with a smile. No one should ever threaten his guide.

Naomi, who didn’t stay in the car, came up alongside Blair, oblivious to the drawing crowd and felled felon, was instead intent on the food stalls.

“Blair-honey, over here, look they have those cute steak and Kidney pies.” Naomi received no response from her exasperating son and turned to get his attention. “Blair, give that gun right back to Jim. Your health is not something to mess around with and I haven’t seen you eat anything remotely healthy today. And son, didn’t I always tell you, guns are dangerous?”

Blair laughed, at times she was so clueless, but he loved her.

------------------

The district police were grateful. Three criminals off the street with no innocents harmed that was a good thing no matter the arresting officer.

Back at the Yard, West stuck his head in, “If that is what you do with a morning off, I’m not sure you should go on a long holiday.”

“I’ve heard a little mayhem is good for the appetite,” Blair joked back.

“Actually, good work. Makes my special department even more credible.” He left as quietly as he entered.

Susan was all ears and wanted the complete story.

---------------

The lab report and tox results were waiting for them the next morning when they arrived at work. It had, as Blair had surmised, no startling information, just confirmation on what they already knew.

“I hate waiting, but that’s exactly what we have to do.”

Jim understood what he was actually saying and distracted him with additional hard copy evidence.

------------------

Saturday they spent on the Thames. They rented a boat, took a picnic and enjoyed a peaceful day together. They elected to supper at the Dog and Bell and walked back to their car. The quiet of the night was broken by the piercing wail of an ambulance siren. As the sound grew louder, folks stepped outside to see what was happening.

Naomi turned to find Blair amid the now crowded street and didn’t see him. She stepped closer to the building and saw Jim pressed up close to it, facing away from it but shielding another. Blair! That was so cute, Jim had him up against the wall. He didn’t release Blair until all the curious people had drifted away.

She smiled fondly at the big man, he protected her son so he wouldn’t be trampled by all those onlookers. She watched as Jim nuzzled Blair’s neck, here in plain view. She figured he must be quite possessive to stake such a public claim. She was certainly happy for her son.

-----------

That night, Jim alternated between holding Blair possessively and sucking his very essence from him.

Blair knew he should be asking questions but he was too sated and exhausted to put two words together. Jim would climax just after Blair did, as if successfully demanding the pearly fluid from his body would be enough to send him over. Blair would just have to work on an answer in the morning.

Their morning came considerably earlier than they intended.

The phone rang at five-thirty a.m. Blair ignored it.

Jim finally answered, “Ellison.”

“Another rope murder. Norwich. I’ll email directions. I’ll call Roger next. About a two hour drive. I’ll be leaving shortly myself.” Venables sounded as tired as he felt.

Jim turned and woke his partner.

Blair showered, drank coffee, gathered their gear, drank coffee and still slept on the entire trip to Norwich. If there were any interesting sights on the way, Blair missed them. The two hours sleep had been worth it.

Jim just knew that the law abiding, composed, solicitous, and unflappable man must shield a wild man beneath. Venables beat them there.

Jim hadn’t finished stepping into the doorway when he knew it was different, but yet the same. “That scent is here. Strong. But, Chief, there was lots of emotion in this murder.”

Venables intercepted them. “Diane Pembroke, rich and influential. The press will stick like treacle. Be careful about verbalizing the finds.”

Blair knew he was trying to protect Jim. Jim wanted to know what treacle was.

“Victim was Diane Pembrooke, forty-five, married. Found by her secretary/companion. Her husband is out of town. She had been recovering from a riding injury. The rope’s there, but the room looks like there was a fight. Everything is as Penelope Reeves found it. Pembrooke was alive last night. No one has contacted the husband yet.” Venables closed his notebook.

Jim nodded and went inside the house. Blair followed.

Jim knew what was different but Blair said it aloud.

“Whoa, there was definitely emotion here. This was personal. The reason will be found here, in this room or in her life.” Blair stood next to his sentinel as he opened his senses and cataloged the room.

Jim went microscopic. That scent, from the other two, was everywhere, not just in the murder room. It was a key, if only he could locate it. They would have to come back when everyone had gone so he could track it.

The rope was constricted more tightly about the neck than the other murders. The hand size was the same but this murder took place face to face. Personal. No indication that he even tried from behind. Jim bent down to examine the nose more closely. No impression and he bet no drugs. She knew her attacker. She fought but possibly like the others, she probably had been drugged initially.

They took multiple photos, even possibly overlapping, to be sure that they would have enough. Jim was betting that this crime scene would be released sooner than later. Blair earmarked areas that he wanted the forensic team to be especially thorough with.

They joined Gordon out front, where a media circus or frenzy was occurring. The mass of reporters had grown in number and were now awaiting the arrival of the local Chief of police.

Gordon pointed to man that had just pulled up. “He won’t want to give up jurisdiction easily, but this is a Special Departments case. Now we add political to the mix.” He lowered his voice, “Roger will love this.”

“Dr. Billings has already agreed to do the post mortem and it’s important we get that rolling immediately.” Blair didn’t want to lose the scent that Jim had recognized. He hoped that the pathologist would be able to smell it and note it in the report.

Gordon nodded as he speed dialed Superintendent West. “Roger, media circus…”

Blair joined Jim who was able to hear Chief Cyrus Webster, “…And I will guarantee the citizens of Norwich that the street would be safe again quickly. It is obvious that Mrs. Pembroke met foul play at he hands of her companion. I will have her in custody before the day ends….”

“That old windbag must be running for reelection. I don’t think he even knows what happened or that it’s part of The Rope murders.” Jim shook his head. “I hope Gordon lets Roger know what he’s in for.”

Gordon waved at them and they rejoined him away from the media mob.

“Roger is coming by helicopter and it will transport the body. He will make sure that these locals don’t actually arrest Reeves. I’m not sure, but I think Roger just may enjoy trumping this LEO.” He smiled at Jim, “Did I get that right?”

“Perfect. Next I’ll show you how to do with a Texas accent.” Jim returned the grin.

“Gordon, just between us, this is the break, but we can’t let it get out that we think so. We can’t tip our hand. So if Roger doesn’t mind, it’s best if we’re still gathering our evidence.” Blair told the Special Chief Inspector.

Venables could tell that the men had more than those words, but did agree that less said would be to their advantage. “Then it would be best for you fellas to be away from here. Roger will steal the limelight from Webster and it’d be better in the long run if two Yanks didn’t show the local bigwig.”

“We’re already gone.” Jim nodded his head and started for the car.

“Eagles; 1974.” Blair quipped as he caught up.

“Sandburg, what’ve I told you, the only decent group worth listening to was Santana.”

“Jim, we gotta get you out more often.”

-----------------

Blair headed for the computer, he wanted to plug Diane Pembrooke into the victim connection program as soon as possible. He admitted that there was a remote possibility that there was a connection, but he didn’t think so. He knew this victim would yield the answer, but they couldn’t skip anything on the way. Usually the oddest elements proved to be the most crucial.

He used another computer to initiate an extensive background search on Diane Pembrooke and her immediates. He didn’t think Penelope Reeves was involved but he wasn’t going to disallow the possibility. Once West had wrestled the case from the local division they could then set up interviews. In all likelihood, these interviews were ones that would shed light. There was a personal connection to this victim, so everything around might shed the light necessary to crack it wide open.

Jim came in to find his partner bent over a keyboard, fingers flying. He started with the photos. A lot of what he wanted to examine again would have to wait until the lab finished with it.

Susan kept them isolated from all who wanted to interrupt. She knew that Dr. Sandburg could so focus he would forget to eat until he heard Detective Ellison’s stomach rumble. She had food sent up in the afternoon. And kept supplying the coffee.

The press rang endlessly. The Naomi woman rang several times as well. None were permitted to know that the men were even in the office. The Superintendent was to be put through, but he said that he would wait until he got there.

During the second time she brought in coffee she shared, “Gordon called and said that the body made it to the pathologist safely.”

“Good going. Did he say when he would return?” Jim asked as he placed a cup of coffee in Blair’s hand and moved it toward Blair’s mouth.

Susan smiled, “He is flying back with the Superintendent. They should land within the hour.”

Forty-five minutes later West and Venables entered the Special Crimes Department and took refuge from the press.

“Cyrus Webster is a pompous ass but he knew what he was doing. He didn’t want the case but what he did want was the appearance of having wanted the case. The conniving fool wanted the Yard to take it publicly, he’s off the hook for the solution and he got the Pembrooke family off his back. Now, no matter the outcome, he didn’t ruffle any of the feathers that could eventually line his nest during reelection.” West shook his head.

Venables added, “He’s hoping, of course, that we blotch it. He’s doomed to disappointment.”

“The press are now all over the case. It felt wonderful pointing out that we’ve had all our resources on it since last week. Of course, now we’re not solving it fast enough.” West was already planning the next press conference. “Gordon will run interference for you two. He will speak with the press. He filled me in with what you lads think. Proof, gentlemen, it’s essential for conviction. First, though, is to stop the killer. So, Jim, use what you do and I’ll work at explaining later.” He told his men frankly.

West spoke with Gordon and Susan on the way to the elevator.

“He is certainly passionate about crime solving. I like working here.” Blair looked back at his partner.

Jim watched the elevator door close on West. His casual acceptance of his oddities and the willingness to work out the explanations, had Jim mirroring his partner’s utterance, “I like working here, too, Chief.”

They worked until late afternoon and arranged to meet Billings the next morning before packing it in.

Naomi made dinner, but both guys were too tired to appreciate it. Naomi felt like she had Blair living at home again, she couldn’t help but smile.

Just before sleep claimed him, Jim’s curiosity got the best of him. He pulled an already snuggling partner closer, “Hey, Professor, what the hell is treacle?”

“Molasses.”

----------------------

Next morning, after a restful night, they headed to Gordon Hospital to meet with the pathologist. Jim was forced to use the A-40. At this time in the morning, his favorite side streets were just as crowded and even slower.

On time, Billings had Pembrooke on the table as they entered the morgue. He started right in with his summary of findings.

“The same hand killed her, the same steps were taken but this was not the even, steady, emotionless murder. This was anything but.”

“As we thought. Okay, run us through,” Blair requested.

“She was strangled and the rope placed on after. But, and these are big buts, she was not killed from behind, the choking was erratic and she was shaken. That is a big difference. Some of the shaking occurred pre and some occurred post mortem. Very emotional and the biggest deviation.”

“Could it be a copy-cat?” Blair asked.

“No. The hand print size is the same and she was violated after death with a wooden tool. Although penetration was rough and conducted several times. Emotion driven, different but the same perpetrator. I’d stake my career on that. I can find nothing about the nose. Tox screen tomorrow and West authorized an immediate rush. Stomach contents much the same as the other victims, food and drink, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to link it to the other stomach contents, but then none have had any matches between them.” Billings moved to the sink and washed his hands.

“If I had received this body first, I never would have called. The emotion matched the crime. Hiding the strangulation with a rope would have seemed just as it was, a poor attempt to deflect suspicion.

He watched as Ellison inspected the body like he was able to see things that others didn’t. Must have been that covert army training he had spoken of.

Jim was doing more than looking. He was smelling and he scented the odd odor all over her. It was strong and it did not originate with her. The color of the scent matched what he had smelled on the others, but this was more vibrant. He wanted to go back to the Pembrooke house.

“Chief, I want more photos of the neck area.” He looked at the pathologist, “Anything under her nails?”

“DNA? No. She didn’t have that much fight. She did have a faint chalk residue, but no human DNA.”

“The broken vase,” Jim nodded as he recalled the crime scene, “She probably tried to hit the perp.”

Blair flipped open his notebook, “Yeah, broken vase, but it looked to have fallen on the floor. I’ll ask the lab to check it anyway.” He closed his notebook and flipped open his phone.

Jim looked back at the doctor, “Did you note any odors?”

“The usual ones.”

“Nothing distinct?” It was such a strong scent to him, he couldn’t believe that everyone else could miss it.

“Nothing unusual.”

Disappointed, “Okay. Thank you, Doc. And I’d like to say I hope we don’t meet up again this way, but we don’t have enough evidence. So …”

“West already asked.”

-------------

Jim headed out to the A-11. “Billings didn’t pick up the scent. I need to locate a source. It was all over the house.”

“Okay, I already cleared a visit with West. The local man at the house was told to expect us. Can we eat first?” Blair asked, quite hungry.

“Yeah, I miss Wonderburger.”

-------------

Constable Jenkins admitted them with a cursory glance at their IDs. The press didn’t appear to be staked out here so they had clear entrance.

“Okay, Jim, I know you have the color fixed in your head, you say it’s all over, so what you need to do is assign intensities, like when you were describing it yesterday. We’ll track them and assign them importance that way. Even though you’ll be singularly focused, I need you to verbalize each color and where it is and I’ll make a chart. It may tell us something as a whole.” Blair shrugged at the last part.

“Okay.”

“Don’t worry about volume, just kinda say what you’re doing and where you’re going and why.”

Jim took a deep breath and nodded.

He told Blair how at first, lines of the same color seemed to be everywhere. Then, as Blair suggested, he assigned intensities based on strength of scent. The same number of lines remained but the colors changed. He noted that although the strength of color at the murder scene was more intense than some other areas, none were as strong as yesterday. Faint lines hit every part of the house. Kitchen and TV rooms were several degrees stronger. The strongest was from the toilet of the master bedroom. There it stopped.

“It’s stronger here, but there is no origin. That bottle on the left is almost like it, but not exactly.” Jim stared at it as if he could change it by willing it so.

Blair turned the bottle and looked at the label, “It’s cologne. Jése, a French one.” He read the bottle, “It claims to blend with one’s own scent and morph into a unique scent that remains solely individual.”

“The scent changes with the wearer. So it’s this guy. The husband.” Jim was sure.

“More than likely, this is the husband’s bath. We need to collect a sample. Then we need a sample of sweat and mix the two.” Blair flipped open his cell once more.

“You’ll never get it. He’ll lawyer up.”

“Jim, nobody but you can smell the difference. False advertising to the masses, unless they’re sentinels. So we can’t use it in a court of law, but we can make sure for ourselves.” He pressed the speed dial.

“Roger, we need to take a sample of cologne and we need to sit in on the interview with the husband tomorrow.

“Done. House is in an open crime scene. Take your samples.”

“Thanks.” Blair bagged the two samples, then replaced the bottle on the shelf exactly as it had been. He didn’t want to alert the man unnecessarily.

--------------

Jim overheard Pembrook’s complaint as they exited the elevator.

“I don’t understand why I must come all the way to London to claim my wife’s body. I know she was already identified. This is a very difficult time for me. For that matter, I don’t understand why my wife’s body is even here in London?”

Venables answered with practiced patience, “I am sorry for any and all inconvenience. Unfortunately, your wife’s death is part of a larger case and we believe that we can conclude it faster if all the evidence is more centrally located. We truly want to find her killer as much as you do.” He ushered him into the VIP interview room.

Jim and Blair waited in the adjacent room for Venables to get him all settled. As they made their way next door, Jim stopped his partner.

“It’s the scent, Chief. The one that tied the murder scenes together for me. He’s been in contact with the killer or he is the killer.” Jim was certain.

“Whoa, big guy. We can’t go in there and accuse him of his wife’s death. We need to tie to the others first. We must tread lightly. We need to find out why, get a motive before we move on him. Aside from the fact that we have n.o.t.h.i.n.g. to tie him to any of the murders except for the Sentinel Says, Roger asked us to and I like Roger.” Blair had his partner pulled against the wall.

“Okay, okay, I get the point.” Jim stopped outside the door, hand on knob, whispering to himself, “Pretend I like this guy … pretend I like this guy.”

Blair rolled his eyes and recited Jim’s mantra himself.

Jim went right into his act. “Mr. Pembrook, than you so much for coming in today amid all your grief. I’m sure we can get you out of here as quickly as we can. My partner, Blair Sandburg.” He indicted Blair, who was pouring fresh coffee for all.

“You’re American.” Pembrooke stated the obvious.

“Yes, but we work for the Yard, Special Division. What do you know of your wife’s activities this last weekend?”

“I had to be away on business, grain sales. Penny came to stay when I was away. Since the riding accident last fall, she hadn’t been as mobile as she once was. My wife was very good with horses. It had been frustrating for her to be so immobile. Penny was a professional nurse and they had been best friends almost since the pram. I can’t believe that she would have had anything to do with this.”

“Oh we don’t think she did. What were her usual haunts?” Jim asked casually.

“She loved to go to Jules Equestrian Stables. They were her favorites. She’d always said they were the classiest. That was always an important issue with her.” Pembrooke looked uncomfortable, as though he let something slip. “I don’t mean she was a snob, just that she was used to the best.”

Blair interrupted in a very business like manner. “Can you account for your whereabouts all weekend?”

“I was in Manchester, you don’t think I did it? I can give you numbers. She’s been killed by that horrible ‘rope murderer’. I’d best engage my solicitor.”

With his most soothing voice, Jim consoled, “That is just a routine question. We’ll need the whereabouts of all close contacts, friends and staff. Procedure.”

“Of course.”

Venables came in with pen and paper as Jim and Blair exited.

They returned to the interview anteroom.

“He was lying.” Jim stood at the window and stared out unseeing. “His heart was pounding when you asked your question, Chief. It was double time and the perspiration level was off the charts off.

“Yeah, and his eyes shifted left.”

“He was already using the past tense on everything. You notice that, Chief?”

“Yes, but he may have a grammar obsession. But I do agree it’s odd. When people reminisce they usually speak as if the departed are still here. Even after twenty years.”

“He didn’t wait twenty minutes.” Jim paced the anteroom.

“We can’t arrest him because he uses the past tense.”

“He’s the guy, Chief, the scent is him. The same scent that I can tie to the second and third murders.”

“Jim, we can’t arrest him because of his scent. Even West couldn’t concoct something that would stick. We have to find out why.”

Blair sat down and flipped opened the folder. “If we throw out finding a connection between the women and just concentrate on Diane Pembroke, the reason will be there.”

Jim sat back weary and frustrated. “Damn, I know it’s him. He’s thorough, Chief. No print. No DNA. Just his scent.”

“If we even detain him, we could lose him. I hate it, too, Jim, but right now we need to find another way to prove it.”

When they returned upstairs, the tox screen was waiting along with the results of all things tested from the crime scene. Blair read through the listed contents. Her prints were on the broken vase.

“Jim, look at the rubbish bin list,” he waited for Jim to flip through.

“Yeah?”

“There was a pregnancy test kit with a positive result bar. Was Diane Pembrooke pregnant?”

“No.”

“Could have Penelope Reeves been?” Blair didn’t think so.

“We can check. We also nee to delve deep into their lives. Search for every skeleton.” Jim looked intently at his partner.

Blair nodded, on the same page, “Yes, and life insurance polices.”

“And pre-nups.” Jim turned to the closest computer.

Both men forgot the outside world as they delved deeper into their research. The Pembrooke’s lives was like a soap opera, the power struggle, the pursestrings, the affairs.

Four hours later, Susan entered with sandwiches and their favorite coffee.

“Stop and tell me what you’ve found,” she batted away hands grabbing for coffee. “You get coffee if you eat.”

Neither needed the prodding to consume the food. Once they thought about it, both realized they were starving.

Jim ate faster and started talking first. “Diane Pembrooke, forty-five. Money! Both sides of her family had money, so the power struggles weren’t there. She inherited the bulk of her fortune from her grandmother when she turned twenty-one. Her mother’s money will be divided equally between the two girls. Diane’s younger sister, Amanda Collier,thirty-five. Her father, money in his own right – Addison Stud Farms. Evidently there is a lot of money in horses and bulls.” Jim looked to Blair.

Blair rubbed his hands together. “Delving into the society pages, husband, Richard Pembrooke, knows horses but isn’t good with the money side. He has had several mistresses, discreet, but apparently, everyone knows. The wife didn’t have anything on the side, not because she stood by the vows, but due to a lack of interest on her part for males in general. Apparently, she married Pembrooke because of his horse sense. He had carte blanche when it came to the horses or the sable. Not much for personal pleasure.” Blair looked over to his partner.

“Her life insurance amounts to about two million pounds.” Jim then added, “She has a will, as does he. They are each other’s sole heir. “ Jim paused, his eyes twinkled at Blair. “Diane’s will had a codicil. In accordance with her grandmother’s wishes, if a child is produced, then the child would be heir to all property and three-quarters of all else.”

“Bingo! On the evidence list we found mention of a pregnancy test kit with a positive result. I did find out that the sister, Amanda Collier is pregnant. I called Penelope Reeves and she confirmed that the sister visited last month.” Blair smiled at Jim, he figured that Jim had already worked out the motive. “I asked Reeves why trash from a month ago would still be there and she admitted that Diane wouldn’t let staff inside her private loo, to quote her.”

Jim nodded, “Richard Pembrooke evidently saw the positive stick and assumed that his wife was pregnant. Probably all he could see was the loss of a future inheritance.”

Blair leaned forward, “Richard Pembrooke had a vasectomy fifteen years ago, just after they married.”

“Soooo, he knew the supposed kid wasn’t his,” Jim whistled as some of the pieces fell into place as Blair said they would.

Blair shook his head, “They obviously didn’t talk. She couldn’t have kids, never could.”

Susan gasped, “You’re saying that if she had told him that from the beginning she probably wouldn’t be dead?”

Blair nodded, “Nor any of the other victims. Blair paused, as all the pieces fell into place for him. “He wanted her dead but to keep suspicion off himself he kills three other women in exactly the same way. We look for a serial killer instead of looking closer to home. He’s convinced himself that his single potential motive would be overlooked.”

“Except for you two. You figured it out.” Susan was pleased anew to be working for two such fine minds.

“Only problem, we can’t prove any of the that,” Jim said, dejected at the prospect of not being able to nail the guy.

Blair looked back and forth several times between Jim and Susan, “Maybe we need to rattle his cage.”

--------------------

Jim arranged through West to have Pembrooke brought in again. He believed he was there to complete the arrangements for his wife’s body. He was sans lawyer and they didn’t want to put him on his guard. They elected for an informal chat.

They saddled up casually and flanked him on either side.

“Mr. Pembrooke,” Jim nodded and smiled, he hated that he had to play the ‘good’ cop.

Blair chose another business-like voice. “Mr. Pembrooke, I see by the evidence list that a pregnancy test kit was found.” He said no more and remained silent.

Unnerved by the silence, as Blair had counted on, Pembrooke volunteered, “We’ve been trying for years to have kids. I was very excited. It makes this an even greater tragedy.”

“Did your wife have a life insurance policy?” Blair asked with no warmth.

“Of course.”

“Are you her heir?” Blair made it sound like an accusation.

“Sandburg, I’m not sure that is relevant at this moment.” Jim used his most soothing voice. The sentinel noted that Pembrooke was very uncomfortable around Blair and his probing questions.

“Fine. I’ll be back at a later date.” Blair moved to the coffee machine.

“We’re sorry for your loss.” Jim joined his partner, aware of the irony that usually he is the bad cop and wouldn’t be play-acting.

Once in the elevator, Jim could shake off the nice guy image and said with heart felt honesty, “That guy is such a snake.”

“He doesn’t even know that she wasn’t pregnant.”

“That scent was all over him, we still need to get a sample of his sweat.” Jim wanted something to show the others.

“Jim, I don’t know that it’s necessary. I don’t doubt for a single second that we are right, but the sample would be useless. We couldn’t use it in a court. No lawyer or judge would allow a scent only you can smell. As of right now, a good lawyer could get him off for the other three murders. He could just be a copycat. His wife’s scene was more torn up, emotional.” Blair was quite realistic in his assessment as much as he hated it.

“I want the bastard for all four murders.” Jim growled.

“Then we’re forced to collect more evidence and watch him. Is there any way we can get a tail on him?” Blair asked as he keyed up the account of his whereabouts on the day of his wife’s murder. “We need to find as many discrepancies as we can.” Blair set his fingers in action.

“I’ll talk to West.”

“The hell of it, we can’t ask about the days of the other murders without tipping our hand. Damn.” Blair muttered unpleasant things as he researched.

Jim heard each clearly and was enraptured again by the man’s passion.

-----------------

On the drive home, West called with the disappointing news that he could keep a cursory watch on the Pembroke estate but a full-scale stakeout was undoable.

“Nothing concrete to tie him to the others. He agrees with you that we could get him for his wife’s murder, but like us, he wants him for all three.” Jim relayed the Superintendent’s words.

“Mom leaves tomorrow. Once she’s gone, we could set up our own brand of surveillance and he wouldn’t even know we were there,” Blair offered as a solution.

“Okay.” That made Jim feel somewhat better. He just didn’t want to sit around waiting.

For Naomi’s last day, they lunched out then returned to Covenant Garden for a soul cleansing stroll as Naomi called it. They made plans to see each other more than every five years. Jim collected the vehicle for the drive to Heathrow. They parked and walked in together.

“I still can’t say I embrace your career choice, but I am more than sure that you didn’t like some of the choices I made while we traveled together. So, I leave you with a mom’s love that is never ending. I am so happy for the both of you. The love you’ve found together has been a joy to watch. Except for your job, Jim, you’re the perfect son-in-law.” Naomi kissed them both on the lips and took her leave. She walked to her terminal, then after a final wave, she turned the corner out of sight.

Blair turned to his partner for silent comfort. His mom’s departure left him relieved and sad at the same time.

A deep sigh preceded, “That’s my mom.”

“You know, Chief, she wasn’t half-bad.”

“You don’t mean …” Blair knew most men fell for his mom.

“No, Professor, I mean that I never expected to encounter a parent that accepted her son’s homosexual relationship with such open arms and happiness.”

“We lived in communes for years. That’s my mom.”

Jim ruffled Blair’s hair, he wished he could let his fingers linger. “You wanna get some dinner?”

Blair smiled, he’d figured out that Jim loved to hear him say, “I could eat.”

They ate on the way to Norwich. Jim knew they’d feel better if they could track Pembrooke tonight. They arrived just after dark and Jim pinpointed the man in the stables. Their suspect spent the next two hours grooming and mucking in care of his animals. Eventually, he headed to the house, showered and got into bed. The Sentinel and his Guide headed home just after midnight.

----------------------

The phone rang just after five a.m.

Jim knew that this was not good news. He picked up the ringing instrument. “Ellison.”

Venable’s tired voice repeated what he said on other wake up calls. “Another murder. Southampton. I’m already on my way.”

“Right. We’re a half hour behind you.”

A muffled groan was clearly audible to sentinel ears.

“Damn. This is my fault. I egged him on.” Blair smashed the pillow with his fist.

Jim stopped dressing, “No, Chief. I know it feels that way, but he must have planned to do it before we talked. Look at the distance, he already had it planned. If we’d got the requested tail, it would have still been too late. This is his fault.” Jim consoled, hoping that understanding would replace the remorse in the blue eyes that always touched his inner core.

Blair nodded, there were no words worth uttering.

Southampton was the closest to London but the furthest murder from Norwich. They got coffee from the closest drive-thru and made it there just on the heels of Venables.

The trio flashed their badges before dipping under the crime scene tape that surrounded the home. Venables headed to the constable in charge as Jim and Blair entered the dwelling.

“Same scent, Chief.” Jim confirmed the obvious.

Blair photographed the rope encircled neck, then the rest of the body before Jim touched it.

“She’s completely cold. Rigor has set in. She was already dead when we sat surveillance last night.” Jim confirmed his guess from earlier.

“He’s had no set number of days between kills so it’s impossible to tell if we made him nervous or not.” The truth was it didn’t matter, Blair felt as thought he let this woman down.

Blair moved to Jim’s side and placed his hand on Jim’s back and let him sense catalog the scene on a sentinel level.

“The emotion is missing, like the first three. The compression was sure and quicker. Nose bruising is so faint, she probably died immediately after breathing in the drug.”

Blair finished photographing the room as Jim earmarked specific items for collection in the rush category.

When they joined Venables out front, the forensic team entered the home.

Blair looked to Gordon for the victim’s particulars.

The Special Chief Inspector looked down at his notes, “Betty, Elizabeth, actually, Cuddington, fifty-five, married, found by her husband when he came off night shift. His whereabouts already confirmed. She lunched with friends. That was the last time she was seen.”

Anger tinged Blair’s voice, “Gordon, the only way we’re going to get this guy is by following him. Twenty-four seven. Jim and I can do a lot of it but not all. Roger has got to get us some more help. We could have prevented this death.”

Gordon nodded, “I’ll help. I’ll see if I can’t get a couple of volunteers.” His tone assured them he would.

“Thanks.” Betty Cuddington’s death weighed heavily. They would prevent a sixth even if they had to camp out in Norwich.

Jim told Gordon, “We’re meeting Billings this afternoon after he’s had some time with the body. After that we will sit on Pembrooke.”

Gordon nodded.

They went home to shower and change before their meeting. They were almost to their block when Blair’s cell sung out.

“Sandburg.”

“I got two retired constables to sit on Pembrooke until we work out shifts. They’re good men.” Gordon relayed the plan and arranged to meet them for super at Pasha’s, six p.m.

Upstairs, Jim locked the door behind them. With Naomi gone, Jim wanted Blair. Their coupling was fast, loud and passionate.

Jim felt revitalized, Blair was the most important part of his life. He could say it with his hand and tongue better than with his mouth. But, he had learned the importance of words said aloud, as well.

“I love you, Blair.”

“Oh, I love you, too, Jim. I love you, too.”

--------------

They stopped for coffee at Devon’s on the way to Gordon Hospital, the one that the pathologist worked out of. The traffic was congested but it would be on the A as well. He used the side streets.

Jim knew that traffic was a hazard to the guide, as was almost any other person if the guide wasn’t protected adequately. He checked and his scent was all over the guide and the guide had happy eyes. The Sentinel knew his alert vigil was never wasted. But, it was possible that today may be a bad day and he should just take the guide back home. That other person was gone and the guide would be safe there.

Blair knew that Jim had just switched over to protect mode, as he called it. Jim’s hands were gripping the steering wheel and his eyes were darting out the rearview and side windows every few seconds.

“Jim, you’re having that feeling again. Now, listen, I’m safe. You keep me safe. I am in no danger.” Blair’s guide voice was pitched at its most effective tone.

The Sentinel listened to the voice. He listened to the heartbeat. Blair-essence joined with sentinel-scent bathed the guide. Guide was indeed safe.

His guide was safe. His guide – always his guide.

“My guide.”

“Yes, your guide.”

The Sentinel relaxed his grip as he pulled into the hospital parking lot.

They entered the morgue with a feeling of familiarity. “This almost seems like our office away from the office.” Blair greeted the pathologist.

“Same for me.” With a sigh, he pointed to the neck, “Same MO, same print. This was back to non-emotional. Ever so faint bruising in the nose. The tox screen should be done tonight. Roger authorized overtime.” Dr. Billings pointed to the rope, “Jim, I think your latex was caught on this rope. I sent a sample to be compared with the others. And, yes, lad, we need to stop meeting like this.”

“Unless we’re completely wrong, this will be the last for the ‘rope murderer’,” Blair assured the pathologist.

--------------

When they arrived at the Pasha Restaurant, Roger West was sitting with Gordon Venables. Along with their bosses, sat Steven Redbridge and Morris Kent. They hadn’t worked together since the serial murder that had brought them back to England.

Venables smiled, “I recruited more volunteers.”

Roger nodded, “Two more retired DCs have already joined Halloren and Jackson. Tonight is covered.”

Blair was elated. “While I don’t expect any movement of the killing sort tonight, I’d rather have him covered.” Blair took a relieved sigh, “Thank you.”

“No, Blair, we may not have enough proof for a paid operation, I know we have the right man.”

They ate, mapped out a schedule of eight-hour shifts, caught up and played darts. No one bet against Jim.

Despite the circumstances, Blair loved the camaraderie and most especially, he was truly a part of it.

----------------

Jim and Blair got on the A-11 after coffee and headed out to Norwich. They decided to rattle the suspect yet again. They knocked on the door and the maid answered. She announced them and the two special detectives waited patiently.

Richard Pembrooke did not look happy to see the Yard men. In fact, he seemed quite upset.

“Why are you back here again to question me? Wasn’t there another rope murder?” Pembroke asked.

“Yes, but we are faced with copy-cats in every sensationalized case, so we treat each case individually.” Blair, ever quick on his feet, deflected the question with ease.

Jim loved that obfuscating ability of his partner.

“Now, can you tell us your wife’s movements on the day she was killed?” Jim asked aloud. The Sentinel noted the flash of panic as his heart beat faster and his respiration hitched.

Pembroke did calm himself quickly and figured that no one had time to notice. He hadn’t reckoned on the man that stood across from him.

He demanded his solicitor. “You are persecuting me. I will have your badges.”

Jim smiled as the door closed behind him. “I think we’re getting to him.”

---------------

Venables had booked a room at the Oaklands Hotel, utilizing the business accommodations for the five stakeout teams. Each pair would work an eight-hour shift and for those that didn’t want to make the long drive back, the three bedroom suite would be prefect. Jim and Blair met up with Grimsby and Sanford. Two of the retired constable friends of Gordon’s. The two of them along with Halloran and Jackson had covered Pembrooke yesterday with twelve-hour shifts. Being retired had its advantages.

Grimsby told them that two other retired DCs were on watch, Halloran and Jackson. After they exchanged cell numbers, Grimsby laughed before he left for the pub. “You tell Gordon he’s paying for the extra minutes.”

Jim could hear the older man snickering to himself all the way to the pub.

“We’re not on ‘til four a.m., Chief. Why don’t we get dinner, then scout out the area.” Jim suggested.

“Sounds like a plan,” agreed Blair.

“Come on back after, Jack’ll be back and we can get to some serious poker,” Sanford invited.

Jim liked the idea. “You bet.”

“Exactly.”

-------------------

By their shift, both men had scoped out the Pembrooke estate and surrounding area. Jim knew all the available exits out of the estate and out of town. They wanted to be able to intercept the bastard whichever route he chose.

Both men knew he wouldn’t be moving just yet, but this time they wouldn’t be caught unprepared. They couldn’t take a chance on losing another life. They were caught off guard last time, not again.

They turned their shift over to Kent and Redbridge. They opted to stay local instead of driving home, but they went with a private room at the same hotel, just on a different floor. They spent most of the day with the other stakeout members not on watch. Poker, coffee and pizza. Jim figured cops everywhere did stakeouts the same.

Jim and Blair left the game ahead at the next shift change. They went to the pub for a late dinner.

---------------------

In the year they’d been together, Blair had experienced many of Jim’s nightmares, but since settling in England they had subsided. Even after William Ellison’s disconcerting visit they hadn’t resurfaced.

Tonight was different, he had woken in Jim’s arms, not the comfortable tangle as usual, but within a possessive embrace. Jim was still shivering with reaction and even more mute than usual. Before he tackled this, he needed to order his thoughts. Blair couldn’t help but think that it had something to do with the on again, off again fear, panic and obsessively protective behavior of late. All Jim had been able to convey was a sense of danger to the guide.

The Guide. Blair felt that was indicative in itself. Not ‘my guide’ but ‘the guide’. Almost like a throwback to more primitive times. They may not have discussed all the throwback behavior that could come up but that didn’t mean it would exhibit itself. Well, like it or not, the whole Guide/Sentinel relationship had its roots with early man, when they was absolutely vital to the tribe’s very existence. The worries and concerns faced today may have a more sophisticated package, but they were in essence the same. Protect his people. The Guide was essential, then and equally so now.

So what was triggering this sense of danger now? As far as he knew, his life wasn’t in any more danger that it was on any other day. Also, why not all the time? Not even at regular intervals. Blair knew the key could be in the where. He would get a GPS unit tomorrow and punch in the coordinates at each onset and again when it vanishes and see if any answers crystallize.

Now, he had to get Jim to talk.

Blair shifted in the embrace. He knew Jim was not asleep, no matter how hard he tried to pretend he was.

“Jim, this was a different kind of nightmare, wasn’t it?” His bedmate stiffened, but that was all. “Jim, we’re a team, more than work, more than sentinel/guide, more than lovers. We’re life mates, but that doesn’t happen automatically on its own. It takes work and this is part of that work. We share good, bad and weird. Wait, that’s the definition of our relationship.” Blair felt the suppressed laugh and was heartened that his mate was listening.

“I know that the dream/nightmare is somehow wrapped up in the protective behavior of late and to figure it all out I need to hear what you dreamt.”

Blair waited for a few moments, then came the sigh that told him that Jim would talk.

“A lot of images, a jumbled mess. Part of the time it was like I was watching, not the participant, but I still knew it was me.” Jim rolled onto his side and folded one arm under his head. Their legs still entwined.

“I’m hunting a big cat with a bow and arrow, but at the same time, I have a big cat at my side. The cats do NOT like each other. I know I must get rid of the other cat but this dog or wolf keeps interfering. The cat and hunter both want the wolf but they know the other cat wants it as well.” Jim rubbed his face, the panic of the dream reborn.

“We’re all running through the jungle, we should all drop from exhaustion, but like most dreams, you don’t. Then everything changes and we’re near a waterfall, the other cat tries to jump it and is hurt in the process…The wolf stops and goes to help but the hunter and his cat just know that the wolf’s life is forfeit if he gets near that cat. So, the hunter takes aim, even though he’s half a mile away and lets loose of the arrow. It would have struck straight and true but at the last minute, the wolf jumps in to intercept and is struck instead. It falls to the ground injured or dead. The hunter’s cry, my cry of horror, loss, so devastating – I woke – Chief, I was never so happy to hear your heartbeat as I was at that moment.”

Blair took in a ragged breath. Sentinel dream recall was impressive and terrifying at the same time.

“Jim, I know the dream is important. We have to work out why together.”

“How?” Jim’s voice couldn’t hide his fear, “I can’t help feeling that wolf was somehow - you.”

“Me? Is this a comment on my hair?” Blair used levity to give himself time to think.

“No, serious. The more I think about it, I’m sure the hunter/sentinel/me/ whatever thought of the wolf as Blair.” Jim backed away from Blair, “My god, am I the danger I sense? I kill you? NO! You have to leave now. Get away. Be safe.”

Blair grabbed at his panicked partner. He threw his body over the struggling man, twisted their legs together and finally positioned himself that if Jim moved he’d hurt Blair.

Jim’s struggles subsided.

“Jim, you would never hurt me. I know this deep into my soul. So calm down.” Blair’s body may have been working hard, but his voice was calm and guide like.

“Blair, I’m the danger to you. I’ve been feeling it for weeks, on and off.”

“No, Jim, you’re my protector, even if I don’t need it.”

Blair sounded so sure, Jim wanted to believe, but he won’t allow any harm to the guide.

“We need to look at the dream differently. If you’re convinced the wolf is me, then the hunter is you. The cat with you is also you, or the sentinel part of you.” Blair’s mind raced, “So, that would make the other cat a sentinel as well and it needed your guide. A guideless sentinel…. needing a guide…” Blair was working out implications when he heard a growl.

“MINE!” Jim enfolded his guide into his tight embrace. “MINE!”

“YOURS!” Blair wrapped his arms just as tight about Jim.

Jim pushed his nose into Blair’s neck and inhaled.

“Claim me.” Blair loved sentinel-spiked sex, and the answering growl from deep in Jim’s throat told Blair that this would indeed be an intense sentinel-spiked encounter.

Jim started with the licking, needing to taste all his guide had to offer. The neck tasted different than the ears, which was completely different that the chest, or it was to a sentinel.

Armpits, so often repelled others, drew this sentinel in. The full, rich aroma of Blairscent was a feast in itself, but his partner’s squirming forced him to move on. The belly quivered as his tongue rasped across it, and he did it again. The quivering a turn-on to senses wide open.

The erect shaft bobbed, hoping for attention next, but the Sentinel’s tongue licked around it, teasing but continued on right around it. He tasted thighs and knees and legs and feet. He loved feet. There was a different aroma here, strong, but all Blair and he again feasted. A low rumbling groan, almost a pleading, had Jim moving up to the apex juncture of the legs. The scent of arousal alongside the musk of Blair was in enough itself to send Jim over, but he resisted. Right now was for Blair, guide, lover, mate. His.

He mouthed each sac independently, then together. Mindful of the correct pressure, careful to evoke further arousal, but stopping before the final peak could be achieved. He nuzzled the entrance with a growl.

Blair’s answering groan had not finished its echoes before Jim swallowed the whole beckoning shaft. Anticipating Blair’s hips rearing, Jim rode the movement, preventing harm to his throat and expertly worked his muscles for Blair’s pleasure. He sucked like a man in desperate need of a drink and was rewarded with five long pulses of condensed Blair essence. The nectar of the Gods. Jim wrung every last drop, releasing the softened member only when his partner had received every bit of pleasure he could handle.

Blair threaded his fingers in the short hair. Jim reveled in the carding motion. Blair’s touch soothed and electrified at the same time. Blair guided Jim’s head to his and kissed him deep and full, feasting himself in the mouth rich and full of flavor.

“Claim me. Your guide.” Blair whispered the words for Sentinel ears.

“MINE!”

“Always.”

Jim found the tube of lubricating gel, kept within easy reach for both men. He used his tongue first, then a lube-coated finger. He reached the sought after prostate and nudged it just so.

He enjoyed the unfurling of the now, not so flaccid shaft. The wanton movement of Blair spreading open that much more fuelled Jim’s passion to a frenzy and he coated his own leaking erection and teased the prepared opening. Blair tried to shift his hips to impale himself, but Jim held back, ready to slide in slow until he could go no further.

The clenching of Blair’s anal muscles swept Jim’s control away and he thrust hard and fast, claiming Blair with a sentinel passion. He held back his climax, too thrilled with the act of claiming and marking, making Blair his guide and love. His for all time.

Jim was able to withstand his body’s scream for release, but was unable to resist the soft cry of Blair’s open expression of love.

“I love you, Jim,” sent the sentinel over the crest and he was awash within his own orgasmic burst. Blair’s second climax only added to his pleasure in the aftermath.

Cuddling, they slept without dreams.

--------------------

After what amounted to brunch, Jim went to the stakeout suite while Blair hung back to read the Burton book. He was glad he’d never taken it out of the Land Rover.

Four hours later, Jim came back to their room to physically remove him.

“I know it’s for me, but you got to get some blood flowing, Chief.”

He led him back to the stakeout suite. Jim got Blair involved in the card game and he won more with Blair around.

It was just around midnight when Kent called in movement. A different kind of movement than they’d seen up until now. Furtive, in the dark, no torch. Jim had to be reminded that torch was the Brit version of flashlight.

When Pembrooke hit the A-11, so did the team. Kent and Redbridge had brought separate vehicles as did Halloren, Grimsy and Jackson. Jim and Blair went together.

Gordon was enroute and could intercept as soon as they had more of a lead on where Pembrooke was heading.

Blair alerted Roger to prepare to send in backup if necessary.

An hour into the tail and everyone’s best guess was Leeds.

Blair drove as Jim kept Pembrooke in Sentinel sight. The other five vehicles had gone past, got off, and fallen in behind if different order the entire way.

Jim watched as Pembrooke pulled into a parking lot. “Art’s Café on Call Lane, just past the Corn Exchange.”

Kent and Redbridge went in. Pembrooke didn’t know them and they were within the right age group to blend in.

Kent noted the exact time that Pembrooke slipped something into the blonde’s drink.

Jim and Kent heard when she complained that she felt woozy. Pembrooke offered to follow her home to make sure she got there safely. She explained that she was staying at the Jasper Arms Hotel, she was in Leeds for a conference. She told him her name was Alice.

Gordon relayed the address and directions to the Jasper Arms. The others rushed ahead, Jim and Blair stayed glued to Pembrooke.

No sooner than Pembrooke closed the hotel room door after himself that it was kicked in by Jim, Blair and Kent. Halloren, Jackson and Redbridge were shadowing their steps.

Blair took charge of the drugged Alice as Jim and Kent subdued an outraged Pembrooke. Halloren had them covered with his gun. Legal and permitted when Gordon got around to asking.

Gordon and Kent officially arrested Richard Pembrooke, as he demanded his solicitor, claiming he had been set up.

He was arrested with the same rope type used, latex gloves that matched the particles taken from two other crime scenes. The one drug found in all the victims and the HGB found in five of the six. His handprint matched exactly.

They had a solid case.

----------------

The team of Ellison and Sandburg let Superintendent West handle the press and booking of the ‘Rope Murderer’. They elected to go home and sleep.

Twelve hours later, Blair was reading his Burton book and notes.

“Jim, I think I know, or at least, can guess what might be happening.”

“That sounds encouraging.” His tone said not.

“I think you truly sense another sentinel. A sentinel in need of help. You see it as a danger to me because he has just come online and has no control. He needs guidance and is instinctively seeking one. We need to first locate this new sentinel and help him.”

All of Jim’s every instinct yelled at him to say no. HIS GUIDE.

“My guide. MINE.”

Blair gripped Jim’s face in his hand’s, “Jim, do you doubt my love for you?”

A war was raging within, but, Jim knew if he knew only one truth, Blair loved him.

“You love me.”

“Then you need to trust me. We must aid this wounded man. Remember when you first came online? You had help in Peru. We just won’t count your dad. Now, you can return that help by helping another.”

The sentinel aspect of himself wanted to grab up the guide and run away to hide. But the partner, lover, and friend knew helping was the right thing to do.

A deep sigh broke out, “How”

“Well, for the most part, it happens on the way to Gordon Hospital. Whenever you used the Westminster route.” Blair moved over to his keyboard and brought up the direction maps. “There are three hospitals in that area, only one is long term care. Maybe we should start there.”

Jim recalled his dream, his fear of losing Blair. “That other cat tried to hurt you. Then I hurt you. I don’t know if I can do this, Chief.”

“Jim, trust me as I trust you. You are the only one for me on so many levels. Let’s help this other injured soul.” Blair appealed to Jim’s innate goodness.

Jim couldn’t say no.

Instead of calling, they decided that in person with IDs might produce answers faster to their questions.

“Do you have a patient that complains of lights being too bright, sounds too loud and skin too painful?”

They asked these questions at the closest hospital in proximity to their home in and received a negative response. No one there fit that description.

The next hospital, the long-term care facility, Istisk Hospital.

Blair knew they were on the right track when Jim’s hand began clenching and unclenching. That was why Blair was driving, he was afraid that Jim would turn around and drive home.

Jim silently pleaded for just that.

Blair used the guide voice and again appealed to the helpful person within.

The desk informed them that Jeffery Sommersby did indeed yell about the volume and smell. It was why he was kept under sedation while they tried to discover the cause.

“More than likely,” she implied, “It’s mental. He was in the Fusiliers. Probably something happened.”

Blair asked if they could see him.

Jim remained silent throughout. Fighting his very nature, Jim walked down the corridor. Danger to the guide was eminent and the guide was rushing toward it.

They entered the sedated man’s room, only to find him thrashing about. Jim tried to pull Blair back, but he moved to the head of the bed and put his hand on the man’s shoulder.

“You need to focus and gain control.”

Jeffery Sommersby’s eyes burst open in surprise. “Your voice. The first that doesn’t hurt my ears. Your hand doesn’t hurt.” He was surprised by this.

Jim and Blair were surprised, too.

“You need to control. I want you to imagine a dial in your head. It says sound. Now turn it down. The volume around should be lowering. Take it down to a comfortable level.”

The other sentinel nodded, “Oh, thank you.”

Blair continued, “Now try it for scent, then touch, then sight. It will work for taste, too.”

“Yes, yes. You are fabulous.” He stared intently at Blair until a growl commanded his attention.

Sommersby reacted instinctively in the presence of another as himself. He didn’t understand why, just that the man that growled represented a danger to him and he didn’t want to suffer that way again. The man next to him was the good one and he needed to keep him there. Jeffery acted instinctively again and reached out to grab the good one closer to him.

Jim growled louder, he recognized that this other sentinel wanted his guide. This he would never allow. He moved to get his guide and the man in the bed reacted to that as well. He tore his IV out of his arm and pointed the needle at Blair’s neck like a weapon.

Jim went deadly silent as he contemplated how he would kill this man that threatened his guide.

Blair was calm, he recognized the plea for help mixed up in the alpha sentinel bullshit.

He spoke to Jim in stern guide voice, “My Sentinel.”

Jim cocked his head, responding to the voice, he listened.

“Induce a zone on the other sentinel.” Blair was betting that Sommersby didn’t know what a sentinel was.

Jim walked away to the window and tilted the suncatcher hanging there. He moved it so the prism of colors reflected on the wall.

The flickering colors attracted the other sentinel’s eyes and Jeffery looked at the sparkling pattern and wondered if he could get closer. Captivated by the color his grip loosened and Blair stepped back and away. He avoided touching the man as not to bring him out until he was next to Jim.

Jim pulled him into his arms and grounded himself within the scent of his guide. When Jim relaxed, Blair turned around staying within Jim’s arms.

“Jeffery, follow the voice. You can see the light again, but now listen to the voice follow it back to this room.”

“Why? You should have let me stay there. It was the best I’ve felt since my return to England.”

“Yes, but you would have died.”

“And that is bad because…?”

“Jeffery, my name is Blair and this is Jim. Jim has the same condition as you. You are not sick or dying. You are a sentinel. Your senses are enhanced. You see, hear, taste, smell and feel more that most could ever hope to. All you need is control, you control your senses and learn to use them. You are really quite extraordinary.”

Jeffery made a frustrated sound, “The only voice in a month that didn’t grate and I tried to harm you. It’s hard to find anything positive here.”

Jim spoke for the first time. He looked directly at the man in the bed. “I was stranded in the jungle and the isolation triggered my senses. With training, I have managed to control and now use them instead of them using me. You can learn this. We’ll help, but you’ll have to do most of the work.”

“Will I be able to get out of here?”

“Eventually, yes. You first have to convince them you’re not crazy without telling them about the enhanced senses.” Blair smiled at Jeffery.

“Oh, great.”

“When you do get out of here, I think you should go to Peru. There you won’t have to block out or dial down every moment nor be under the threat of physical harm. You’ll receive better training until you have someone trained to aid you.” Jim actually smiled.

“Peru?”

“I have a friend.”

---------------

Home that evening felt right. The well being of sentinel and guide was restored. The choking vines of danger were truly gone.

Jim had mastered even more control, proven by the still breathing Sommersby, and helped a fellow sentinel. Life wasn’t bad.

The phone rang, at least this one wasn’t another call out for the Rope Murderer.

“Ellison.”

“Jim, it’s Simon.”

“Simon! Great to hear from you. What’s up?”

“I can’t remember that great fishing lake outside Lima.”

“Peru? Lake Incacha.”

“Yup, the anti-narcotics conference is being held there this year. I’m taking Daryl.

“What’s Daryl going to be doing while you're at the conference?”

Simon answered proudly, “I’ve got a guide to take him around to show him the sights. After the conference is over, I'll charter a helicopter to take us up to Lake Incacha – I remember it as one of the most spectacular fishing spots in the world. It'll give us the chance to spend time together -- you know-- talk. Ever since the divorce, Daryl's been having a real rough time.”

“Wow, Simon, I’m jealous. Haven’t had much time for fishing lately. I hope you have a great time. Call or email about it.”

“Thanks, Jim, I’ll dedicate the first fish to you.”

“Do that. Bye.”

“Bye, Jim.”

Jim put down the phone with a smile.

“That was Simon?” Blair could tell it was a pleasant call.

“Simon’s taking Daryl to Lima.”

“Oh, they’ve got to go to Cusco and see the remains of the Temple of the Sun. It's four hundred miles from Lima -- absolutely beautiful. And of course they've got to go to Machu Picchu, the lost ancient city.“

“They’re going to Lake Incacha to fish.” Jim waited and was not disappointed.

Blair exploded, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. They're going to a country with all the cultural heritage of Peru and they're going fishing?”

“Yup, go figure?” Jim grinned.

Blair nudged Jim, “Ah... they're going to have a great time.”

Jim had to disagree, “I don’t know, Simon’s got his hands full. They're going to kill each other.”

“Nah.”

Jim just looked at his partner, he didn’t understand fourteen year olds. He never really was one. “Yeah, they’ll drive each other crazy.”

fini